Don Coscarelli, director of such cult films as Phantasm and Bubba Ho-Tep, delivers an adaptation of the comic horror novel John Dies at the End by David Wong (pen name of Jason Pargin). What results is a film that may very well achieve cult status in years to come with its bizarre world of drug-taking, mind-reading and slimy creatures.
The film jumps back and forth between seemingly present day when Dave (Chase Williamson) is explaining his story to reporter Arnie (Paul Giamatti) and his drug-fuelled story where he and the titular John attempt to stop some sort of invasion from another dimension.
It’s a mix of all sorts of ideas and its admirably ambitious in intent if ultimately disappointing. Coscarelli takes the “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” approach but the trouble is few things ever do. Frustratingly uneven and scattershot, the film’s initially fun premise wears extremely thin before the 20 minute mark.
It only get increasingly bizarre and feels rather like watching a couple of stoners describing their odd experiences; it’s the type of film where you have to be 100% on-board or it’s going to leave you cold and frustrated. It’s admittedly visually unique and for the budget the special effects are rather nifty but it’s not enough if you don’t buy into it completely.
The weirdness ranges from Dave talking to another/past/future version of John on the phone even though he’s sitting right in front of him to a freezer full of meat transforming into a grotesque monster. You get the idea. If that sounds like fun you might enjoy what John Dies at the End has to offer, but for me it sat on the wrong side of odd, quickly disappearing down a rabbit hole of its own self-important zaniness and never recovering.
This review was also published in The Journal.