• John Dies At The End

    Released by: Magnolia Pictures
    Released on: April 2, 2013.
    Director: Don Coscarelli
    Cast: Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Clancy Brown, Paul Giamatti
    Year: 2012
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    The latest film from Don Coscarelli, best known for the Phantasm films, Beastmaster and the great Bubba Ho Tep, is 2012’s John Dies At The End – by far his most unusual outing to date and a movie absolutely worth seeing. Based on the book by David Wong (who is actually Jason Pargin writing in the first person under a pen name), the movie begins when a young man named David (Chase Williamson) is called by his friend John (Rob Mayes) it seems they have a job to do. They arrive at the home of a young woman and realize that they’re seeing her differently. From there, they battle a monster made out of meat products and it all gets weirder from there.

    Bookending the movie are bits where David, a Caucasian who has changed his last name to Wong because it’s the most common surname in the world, is being interviewed by a reporter named Arnie Blondestone (Paul Giamatti) about some strange experiences of his. As David tells Arnie of his experiences, we flashback to various events and learn that after a concert one night, John tried a drug of some sort nicknamed Soy Sauce given to him by a Rastafarian pusher calling himself Robert Marley (Tai Bennett). David also learned of this drug after talking to Robert, who was able to tell him what he dreamed about last night, but he’s more interested in helping a cute amputee named Shelly (Allison Weissman) find her dog, Bark Lee.

    Well, as it turns out, the Soy Sauce allows you to…. do things. Strange things, like communicate with the dead and use hot dogs as cell phones. Soon enough, David’s trying to figure out who is alive and who is dead, what the Hell the Soy Sauce is, and what has really happened to his best friend John. While this is going on, a man named Roger North (Doug Jones) is causing problems for him while a psychic of sorts named Albert Marconi (Clancy Brown) offers his assistance. Before it’s all over, John and David will travel to a world full of topless people in masks, deal with a detective named Lawrence Appleton (Glynn Turman – cousin Larry?) and run around an abandoned mall before having to face… Korrok!

    This is a strange one, even when compared to Coscarelli’s other admittedly strange movies (let’s face it, Phantasm and Bubba Ho Tep are odd films). It bounces around between time frames and dimensions and plays with your head a lot. With that said, it’s also a complete blast to watch. There’s a very obvious, albeit completely twisted, sense of humor running throughout all of this that makes the movie completely entertaining even if at times it seems like it isn’t making a whole lot of sense. In a world where horror movies are becoming increasingly predictable and formulaic, it’s genuinely refreshing to sit down with a movie like this and not have a damn clue where it’s all going or why. With that said, by the time it’s over there is some reason behind all of this and on top of that, the vast majority of the effects in the movie have been done with plastic and goop and sticky gooey props and not CGI.

    Ultimately this is just a really fun watch. A movie that earns its R-rating with some liberal doses of grue and gore, some nudity, some drug use and some cursing but which somehow manages to never go off the deep end into nasty territory. There’s a very free sense to all of this, a sort of unhinged, experimental feel where you think maybe it could go there but it never really needs to. It’s a trippy film to be sure, a drug fueled odyssey in a similar vein to what Cronenberg did with his take on Naked Lunch but with far goofier, sillier attempts at humor. It works when it shouldn’t thanks to some convincing and committed performances from the cast member, all of whom play this bizarre material just straight enough to keep us ‘in the moment.’ Giamatti is great in his supporting role but it’s Williamson really steals the show as the lead. Look for fun supporting work from Doug Jones and, hey look, it’s Angus Scrimm as an evil Catholic priest too! Everyone here turns in good work, there’s not a bad performance in the bunch.


    John Dies At The End looks about as good as it should on Blu-ray, framed here at 1.78.1 widescreen and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. Detail is pretty solid and black levels are good. Colors are accurate during the brighter scenes and maintain decent hues in the darker scenes too. Some moments are a bit garish looking, but that’s obviously been done on purpose and this does seem to be in keeping with the tone of the film, more or less working in its favor. Color scheme aside, skin tones look good, nice and natural, and there are no issues with compression artifacts to note. This feels like an accurate representation of what the filmmakers were going for here.

    The main audio option is a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix in the film’s original English language, though removable subtitles in English SDH and Spanish are also included. No complaints here, really. This track is immersive, enveloping and very well played in terms of directionality and the use of rear channels. It’s definitely a solid mix, particularly during the scenes involving the various creatures that appear in the movie. Dialogue stays clear and there are some very effective moments that use the surrounds to nice effect. The levels are well balanced and as you’d expect from a brand new movie like this there are no problems with hiss or distortion and this is an impressive and effective sound mix that suits the storyline rather well.

    The supplements on the disc kick off with a lively commentary track that comes courtesy of writer/director Don Coscarelli who is joined by producer Brad Baruh and cast members Chase Williamson and Rob Mayes. Not surprisingly, Coscarelli has the most to say here, telling us how he came to be involved with this project, why he cast who he cast, what it was like working with the effects crew and more. The other participants definitely get some words in edge wise, however, talking about the characters and their experiences working on the film and expressing their admiration for the material. It’s a solid track with a good balance of humor and generally informative trivia.

    Magnolia has included a few featurettes here as well, the first of which is Getting Sauced: The Making Of John Dies At The End. This is just shy of seven minutes in length and is made up of Coscarelli talking about how he discovered the book by way of a random Amazon referral and some interviews with the principal cast members. Some interesting behind the scenes footage is found here as well. The second featurette is Creature Corps: The Effects Of Soy Sauce, which is an eight and a half minute look at the monster design work and practical effects work that was conjured up to bring some of the movie’s more bizarre creatures to life. We’re also treated to seven minutes or so of cast member audition clips, a ten minute interview with Paul Giamatti discussing the movie conducted by Fangoria Magazine, and nine deleted scenes totaling just under ten minutes in length.

    Rounding out the extras are some trailers for the feature, a promo for David Wong’s follow up book, and trailers for other Magnolia releases, menus and chapter selection. All of the extras on the disc are presented in high definition.

    The Final Word:

    One of the most creative, bizarre and unpredictable genre films to come around in some time, John Dies At The End isn’t going to be for all tastes – it’s just too damn weird. But for the horror fan with a taste for surreal comedy who doesn’t mind a good mind fuck now and then, this is pretty great stuff. It’s stylish, occasionally gross, often times very funny and just really, really fun. Magnolia’s Blu-ray offers the movie up in great shape with excellent audio and a decent array of supplements too – that makes this a bit of a no-brainer. Great stuff!

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Nolando's Avatar
      Nolando -
      For starting off as a webserial I was surprised this film had as much narrative as it does. Not that that's a lot.