Overlooked Gems: John Dies At the End (2013)
In my last Halloween themed pick, I’ve selected one of the more recent films to come out which not only appeals to horror/sci-fi/fantasy fans, but is funny and weird enough to interest even some who don’t count themselves as loyal fans of these genre films. Directed by Don Coscarelli, whose filmography includes Beast Master, Bubba Ho-tep, and Phantasm, John Dies at the End is a stylish, shoestring genre-bending comedy about less-than-heroic boys asked to save the world.
The John (Rob Mayes) in question does, as we’re told, die, but somewhat early in the story. But he is is neither absent, nor is he our lead. That honor goes to newcomer Chase Williamson as Dave, a low-key 20 something college dropout. A night at a party ends “badly” after Dave and John are introduced to a “drug” called soy sauce. The drug opens them up to alternate dimensions and brings them face to face with an alternate dimension threatening their world. John Dies at the End also features one of the cutest dogs in films since The Artist, named Bark Lee, and Amy, the one armed girl who is considerably smarter than her cohorts, played by the charming Fabianne Theresse.
John Dies at the End also happens to be blessed with a handful of memorable character actors who have a way of brightening a screen with their presence. These include Clancy Brown, Paul Giamatti, Doug Jones, Daniel Roebuck, and Glynn Turman. Turman is especially note worthy as the detective who gives such a strong and breathless performance, it almost feels out of place in this film.
But that is what makes Coscarelli a talented director, his ability to blend campy humor, stunning visuals, smart performances, and meaningful storytelling. He doesn’t in John Dies at the End, as he has on occasion, fall into the hole of style over substance. Because of the that, the film moves along at breakneck speed…despite having to admit, I’m not completely sure I understood the entire film with my first watch. But I was entertained from start to finish, and found myself hoping they would have a chance to do the sequel the original novel already has.
A big part of this is because of the casting of Williamson, who could be a future star in the making. As Dave, his scruffy every-man has a charisma which seems to come from within and instantly engages the audience and commands the big screen. So if you’re looking for a fun movie this Halloween and don’t want to scare your guests, try out John Dies at the End which is a little more of a fun and weird thrill-ride, but still has the horror elements you want…including an awesome meat-monster.
Images from John Dies at the End
Watch the John Dies at the End Trailer