Strap in for a review of one of the most unique films of the year, John Dies at the End. Ever since it hit the film festival circuit in early 2012 it has managed to gain an adamant cult following. This is the type of film that may best be watched at midnight with several of your best friends and you do your best to make sure there’s always someone new in the group so you can watch them freak out. Based one what can only be described as an HP Lovecraft inspired slacker comedy novel, the film truncates the story down to its main plot points. This is not a simple novel to adapt and even for the filmmaker behind Bubba Ho Tep, Don Coscarelli, it may have proven too difficult a task.
John Dies at the End is a hard film to classify. This is epitomized by the pre-credit sequence question posed by protagonist David Wong (Chase Williamson). You kill a man who rose from the dead with an ax, cracking the handle in the process. You take the axe to the store and have the handle replaced. You then go and remove the head of the monster in order to keep it from rising again and chip the blade. At which point you return to the store and have the blade changed out. Later the creature has manged to find and reattach its head to its body with bailing wire. You pull out the ax and when the creature sees it it says, “That is the ax that slayed me!” David then asks the audience if that’s a true statement or not.
To explain much more about the film than that is probably doing it a disservice but here’s the basic info. David and his best friend John (Rob Mayes) are tuned into the supernatural. The thing that comes into their lives that makes this possible is a new “drug” called ‘Soy Sauce’. They are often called on by people in their Undisclosed town to solve problems. When something happens that David feels must be told to the public he calls Arnie (Paul Giamatti), a reporter, to tell his story. David’s story is funny, grotesque and strangely compelling even if it’s narrator may not be entirely trustworthy.
For fans of the novel you’ll miss some of the bigger plot points like the Vegas trip, Amy’s house and the tool shed. That said the story has been streamlined to occur entirely within Undisclosed and it works. The gross out humor of the novel is on full display, the acerbic nature of the John and David’s relationship is present and the story tends to go off the rails in the most entertaining way possible. John Dies at the End is definitely not a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination but it is a fun ride.
8 out of 10