Generally favorable reviews- based on 41 Ratings
Mar 21, 2014This review contains spoilers, click full review link to view. As it begins, John Dies At The End is a faithful adaptation of David Wong (Jason Pargin)'s incredible novel. The depiction of the trippy opening riddle, the house investigation sequence, and pretty much every other horrific and hilarious event for a long while onward is superb; the source material is one of my favorite books of all time, and I found myself giggling along as reality itself seemed to lose its mind on the screen. I was even okay with most of the expected changes, like the meat monster appearing in Shelly's basement and Dave meeting Robert North (Roger in the film) as he drives John home rather than much further on. There were... darker spots, but I'll get to them later.
Lead actor Chase Williamson can get slightly mumbly and underacts in a few scenes, but he does a fine job of capturing David's character and it's a treat to see him in the many bizarre situations the film puts him in. Rob Mayes as the titular John, however, was a bit of a letdown; he's likable, but he loses much of the delightful sociopathy that the novel's John constantly sprayed in everyone's face. Fabianne Therese's portrayal of Amy Sullivan is the worst of the bunch, turning one of the most lovable and unique characters in the book into an annoying, forgettable stock love interest. The remainder of the actors are, however, perfectly cast and hew closely to their literary renditions.
Even though the film contains a lot of brilliance early on, it regrettably fizzles out by the climax. The plot tries to compress three full arcs into one and a half hours, so I knew coming in that there would have to be omissions, but some of the cuts and modifications are just terrible. Amy being at the party in place of Jennifer erases much of her misunderstood mystique, and it's implied that she is already Dave's girlfriend, completely wiping away any kind of character development for her. The shootout in Las Vegas that concluded the book's first arc is replaced with **** taking Dave, John, Amy, and Fred Chu directly to the third arc's ghost door; this leads to the complete absence of the shadow people, and this in turn prevents arch-villain Korrok from receiving absolutely any buildup, making his reveal astoundingly unremarkable. It also has a domino effect on the depiction of **** Narnia (Korrok's home realm), essentially destroying the true explanations for where the creatures came from, what Korrok's motivations were, and why the dog was so important.
However, these would all be forgivable if the film didn't completely gut the best part of the novel: it omits the intriguing subplot of the body in David's toolshed. Thus, it hits the delete key on the revelation that led to a poignant, heart-wrenching eleventh hour and tied the entire book with all of its seemingly random mysteries together, including the answer to the aforementioned opening riddle (which goes unanswered here, and is essentially meaningless). Instead, the film simply selects the dog as the savior of mankind, gives Dave and John a happy ending, and eschews the potential to be more than an absurdist impression of the novel.
Ultimately, John Dies At The End is mostly a great time up to the point where it introduces ****, at which point nearly everything falls apart. Had the film been perhaps an hour longer, many of its flaws would undoubtedly have been nonexistent.… Full Review »
Mar 20, 2014You may or may not be familiar with the work of Jason Pargin already. If you've ever visited Cracked.com, then you may know him by his pseudonym, David Wong. Here, Pargin adapts his own book, written by his alter ego, of the same name, starring his pseudonym self.
Confused? Well get used to it, because this is about as normal and mundane as it gets. Aided and abetted by director Don Coscarelli (Bubba Ho-Tep), Pargin (or Wong, please yourself) has created a world that defies categorisation. Labelled with various degrees of futility as another Naked Lunch, Hithc-Hikers Guide or Bill & Ted, John Dies At The End is a cult indie just waiting to be recognised. Starring Chase Williamson (David) and Rob Mayes (John), this complete and total **** of a story is difficult to pigeon-hole, tricky to second-guess and nigh on impossible to forsee (unless you have read the book, of course)
Labelled thusly by Imdb "A new street drug that sends its users across time and dimensions has one drawback: some people return as no longer human. Can two college dropouts save humankind from this silent, otherworldly invasion?" JDATE is all of these things and plenty more besides. This laughable synopsis barely scratches the surface of this bizarre tale of two friends that innocently do the wrong kind of drug one night at a party and all hell breaks loose. Whether this is in their own heads or not, or how much of it may be nothing more than overactive imagination, well, that's a decision you need to make for yourself. I wouldn't try, however, as just like mother nature, just when you've think you've got a handle on it, it throws something at you like a duck-billed platypus, just to **** up your initially well-thought out explanation of mammals.
And to be honest, I was more oblivious to the existence of this story and its magically tragic characters than the director himself, who only became aware of its existence by happy accident. It was made known to him as a recommendation from Amazon, after buying a completely different book. Taken by the natty title, Coscarelli decided to give Wong's adventure a whirl and what you see here is his (and Jason's/David's) adaptation.
I was even slower, only catching the second book 'This Book Is Full Of Spiders' in the saga as a recommendation on Audible. If nothing else, it proves that Both Coscarelli and I are nothing if not open-minded and appreciate the benefits technology can offer. Essentially, without our computers, I would have missed a great story and cinema would be one very odd film short of complete.
Regularly gory and occasionally amusing, seeing these characters on screen is like getting a hug from an old friend that you haven't seen for some time, but can't honestly say you've missed all that much. Yes, it's nice to see them and the casting is creepily accurate, but this is such a strange and bizarre world, that just like the aformentioned Naked Lunch, you're not sorry to be out of it when you're done.
It doesn't have anything like the same creeping dread and slithery tension provided by Cronenberg, however, concentrating its running time with comedy more than horror. The Shaun Of The Dead approach of being surprised by something so otherworldly and just how someone completely unprepared to deal with it copes with being put in this situation is where the story hangs its hat. The second book continues this approach with most of the characters of not make re-appearances, as well as that legendary soy sauce.
Ultimately, this film is bonkers. In that respect, it is frightfully honourable to the original text, with only a few things changed to make a very strange book slip comfortably from page to screen. The casting, as mentioned, is brilliant. Sometimes, you might get lucky and find that the casting director has matched up maybe one character that you have forseen yourself whilst reading the initially faceless pages. Here, we are treated to at least three characters that you can name without so much as hearing them speak.
A good translation from one medium to another, but it really does benefit from having a copy of the book recently soaked up, as otherwise you may find yourself bombarded by things that just do not make sense. When you begin to understand that this is just another part of the beauty of the story itself, you can relax, knowing that, perhaps, you shouldn't try and take it too seriously. A survival horror game, reduced to feature-length proportions for a greedy audience. It's not a classic and the script is, much like its source, simple, alarmist and base. Still, bloody good fun, nonetheless.… Full Review »