John Dies at the End
john dies at the end | don coscarlli | chase williamson | rob mayes | paul giamatti | based on | novel | david wong | comedy | sci fi | sci-fi | monster | monsters | creature | creatures | demon | insect | possessed | possession | clancy brown | doug jones | fabianne therese
Film: John Dies at the End
Director: Don Coscarelli
Writer: Don Coscarelli
Starring: Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes and Paul Giamatti
The first time I heard about this film was when I was working at Family Video. I remember seeing it on the new release wall and I thought the title was intriguing. I didn’t end up watching it though. A podcast I listen to had an idea for a book club, which I decided to be a part of it. I read the novel this film is based off of and after finishing that, I checked out the film. Nothing ever came of it, but I did see this still. I’ve now given it a second viewing as part of the Summer Series for the Podcast Under the Stairs. The official synopsis is a new street drug that sends its users across time and dimensions has one drawback: some people return no longer human. Can two college drop-outs save humanity from this silent otherworldly invasion?
This film starts off with our main character, David Wong (Chase Williamson), telling us a sort of riddle. We then get to meet our main character. He is in a Chinese restaurant waiting for someone. He seems to lose track of time and focuses to see the man across from him. He’s a reporter named Arnie Blondestone (Paul Giamatti). Dave starts to tell his story.
He leads off with an odd tale about a young woman who seeks David and his best friend John’s (Rob Mayes) aid, but it ends with them coming face to face with a meat monster. It’s during this tale we also meet a spiritualist Dr. Albert Marconi (Clancy Brown). He then gets into the story that explains why he and John can see and fight these monsters.
It starts at a party where John’s band is playing music and David is hanging out. He meets with Amy (Fabianne Therese), a girl he has a crush on, as well as Fred Chu (Jimmy Wong). His world changes though when he meets Robert Marley (Tai Bennett), who is a drug dealer who dabbles in magic.
In the middle of the night, David wakes to a panicked call from John. It turns out he took some drug call Soy Sauce. David finds a syringe of it and it sticks him in the leg by accident. It seems that might not really be the case as the stuff seems alive. It also gives him strange powers that reveal there are things going on in the world we can’t see and will take them on quite a journey to save Earth.
All the while, David is narrating this to Arnie, who doesn’t seem to really be buying it. He does have some things he can show to prove it. It takes quite a turn though when Arnie really sees the truth.
Now since I am someone who really focuses on the story, I will start there. I’m not going to completely compare it to the book, but I am going to point out some similarities and differences. I will say that this film does do well at hitting some of the major points. It does cut out a lot, but that is something I come to expect when basing it off a book. The novel itself isn’t the most coherent, so that is part of it. There are some things I do wish were carried over, but nothing that really hurts it. I will give credit to writer/director Don Coscarelli. I’m not sure another director could pull this off.
Getting back to it, I do like the concepts this film introduced. I’m a big fan of films that deal with time travel, which this has a little bit of. It isn’t used in the conventional way, which is something I really liked. I also like the idea that there are alternative dimensions and that there could be things we can’t see that are influencing things around us. The only way to see them is this drug and it also has other side-effects that are quite interesting as well. It also makes you wonder, is any of this real or just them hallucinating what they’re seeing.
Something that I also found interesting about this film is the pacing. It is interesting in that the film runs about an hour and forty minutes, but it doesn’t feel like it. It fly through. I think part of that is it took all of the important things for the story from the book and just moves through the plot points. That’s a good touch for a film that runs a little bit longer than average. I do almost feel like the film might actually be a little bit too rushed actually. This issue is again, goes back to cramming a 300+ page novel in a feature length film.
As for the acting, it actually has a pretty solid cast. Williamson I thought was perfect for Dave. The way the character is described in the book was spot on by Williamson for me. He wants to be responsible while also being kind of a slacker. He is timid at times, but I think we get the arch to see him become a hero. Mayes doesn’t really fit to the character of John though. I was hoping for a little bit more humor and vulgarity for the role, which we didn’t really get. After this second viewing and being removed from the book, I think he’s fine now. Giamatti is solid in his supporting role, but I come to expect that when I saw he was in this. The same goes for Brown, Glynn Turman, Doug Jones and Therese. I would have been fine with more of them to be honest, but for what they do with the story, it makes sense why we don’t.
Effects were something else that had issues for me. There were just some things that were done with CGI that didn’t look good. A scene early on with snakes is one of them. I don’t know if it could have been done practically, but that really stuck out as an issue. There were a couple more that took me out of the film as well. The film also had some practical effects, which I thought looked solid. The cinematography was well done so I will give credit there.
Now with that said, overall I thought this was a fun film. It is really hard to adapt a book that is so out there like this one, but I do think Coscarelli did as best as he could. The film moves at a steady pace through the plot points and I think it has some really good concepts. I do wish the film could have fleshed out some of the things from the novel a bit more, but I can see why we don’t. Acting for the most part was solid. I’m split on the effects, as there is some bad CGI and as well as some good practical effects. The score really didn’t stand out aside from a party scene with John’s band, but it really doesn’t hurt the film either. This film won’t be for everyone as it is kind of odd, if this sounds interesting though, I’d recommend giving it a viewing. I found it to be above average.
My Rating: 7 out of 10