- Written By: Don Coscarelli
- Release Date: 1/25/2013
- Running Time: 99 minutes
- Starring: Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Paul Giamatti, Glynn Turman, Clancy Brown, Doug Jones, Allison Weissman, Tai Bennett, Jimmy Wong, Fabianne Therese, Jonny Weston,
- Story By: David Wong
It doesn’t take long to know that JOHN DIES AT THE END is going to be a weird film going experience. In fact, you can probably gather that from the clever, spoiler-filled title. It opens with an axe riddle given through narration from the main character, David (or Dave), which features murder, reanimation, and a great deal of axe repair. It has nothing to do with anything, except preparing us for the quirky, violent mood and the tone of the story to come.
JOHN DIES AT THE END comes from the mind of Don Coscarelli, who has put together a respectable film career with the PHANTASM series and the Bruce Campbell camp classic (is there any other kind?), BUBBA HO-TEP. Here he’s adapted a book of the same name by David Wong, which happens to also be the name of the main character. Dave (newcomer Chase Williamson) finds himself at They China Food, high off his ass on a new drug that has hit the streets: soy sauce. It gives you an entirely different perspective on everything, lending to a higher state of consciousness, with side effects that involve experiencing time like an Observer (from FRINGE) and knowing things about people that are impossible to know (like how much change they have in their pocket, what their last dream was, etc.). There are some far more nefarious side effects we will find as the movie unravels… or rather slingshots, whizz-bangs, and tumbles.
Our story truly begins with Dave passed out on the couch, commercials advertising Dr. Marconi’s knowledge of the occult and of the mind. Then, he receives a phone call from the titular John (Rob Mayes of 90210 and THE CLIENT LIST, a guy with a good career in comedy ahead of him), beckoning him over to his apartment, with weapons and beer in tow. Once there, John introduces Dave to Shelley (Allison Weissman). Her boyfriend won’t leave her alone. The problem is, he’s been dead for two months. Clearly, Dave and John are used to supernatural cases. As they investigate her basement, they realize that Shelley is really the monster, as snakes, a meat monster and doorknob penises make their way into the scene. It’s wacky, creative, and nonsensical… which is JOHN DIES AT THE END in a nutshell. It’s a movie that thinks the weirder, more violent, and more out there everything is, the better movie it is. It guarantees a really fun, hilarious, and interesting experience to be sure, but nonsense does not a movie make. It’s also a rather difficult movie to describe or introduce, but I’ll do my best.
Dave and John dispatch Shelley and the meat monster by enlisting the help of Dr. Marconi (HIGHLANDER’s Clancy Brown, who is also the voice of Mr. Krabs) over the phone. While these scenes introduce the characters, it has little to do with the overriding plot. That kicks into gear when Dave is joined at the restaurant by Arnie Blondestone (Paul Giamatti), a reporter ready to hear his story. Dave then regales him with a story of soy sauce, alternate dimensions, demons, and psychic dogs.
It all started at a party, where Dave meets Amy (Fabianne Therese), Fred Chu (Jimmy Wong), and Justin White (Jonny Weston). Amy is a one handed girl, and Justin is the kind of guy who won’t give her hand back. He’s also one of those white, wannabe-gangster types. One of JDATE’s biggest master strokes is making him a villain later in the film. Later, Dave encounters a Jamaican by the name of Robert Marley (Tai Bennett), who fancies himself a magician. Marley knows things he can’t possibly know and does his tricks for a beer. Dave believes him a charlatan and bolts after getting a scare, with Bark Lee following him. Bark Lee is Amy’s dog, and plays an important role in the crazy events to come.
Later that night (or earlier that morning, depending on your perspective), Dave again awakens to a call from John, who needs his help. When Dave finds John, his friend has no idea that he called him, and is going nuts/seeing horrifying entities (things that Dave can’t see) in his apartment. Throughout the film, John is peppered with phone calls from himself at different points in time, both before and after his “death,” as John’s relationship with time becomes a lot more complicated thanks to the sauce.
From there, we learn that Robert Marley was on the sauce (of course), and that he and many of the party goers tried it after the party, and only John is left alive. We all know that that’s not for long (or is it?). When Dave accidentally gets injected by the sauce, he’s thrown into a fight against insects from hell threatening the world. Along the way, Dave encounters a Detective (the great, gruff Glynn Turman) trying to figure out what the hell is going on. All the while, Dave is trying to convince Arnie of his wacky story, in a way it’s like Don Coscarelli and company explaining to his audience what the hell they’re watching. As is, I’m lost in trying to explain the movie. But, I don’t think it needs to be explained; that’s the beauty of it.
JDATE is unfailingly imaginative and funny, and while a more cohesive film and plot might make it a better movie, it’s refreshing to see them not bother trying to dumb it down or pump the brakes on the zany. I expect JOHN DIES AT THE END will receive a very (deserved) divisive reaction, but in the end, I find myself on the appreciative side. JDATE has its share of wasted potential and screen time, but it almost thrives on its own errors and erratic nature.