Average User Score: 7.1Mar 21, 2014This review contains spoilers, click expand 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.… Expand