John Dies at the End (Coscarelli, 2012) was the second film I attended at the 56th BFI London Film Festival and fortunately it was miles better than Cronenberg Jnr’s, Antiviral. Here’s my verdict on John Dies at the End…
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Don Coscarelli’s newest film was screened as part of the festival’s cult section, and before a very enthusiastic audience. To make the screening particularly special, there was a brief introduction from the director himself, who kicked-off the late-night screening with the sort of B-movie aplomb that you’d expect from the creative mind which gave us, Bubba Ho-Tep (Coscarelli, 2002).
John Dies at the End is adapted from a book of the same name. It concerns the hapless duo, David (Chase Williamson) and John (Rob Mayes), a pair of slackers, not unsimilar to Bill and Ted, and like Keanu’s Wild Stallions, this unlikeliest of duos find themselves caught up in a race to save humankind from total annihilation. Dave and John are gifted with ‘special’ abilities courtesy of a strange psychotropic drug, known simply as ‘soy sauce’, a drug so powerful it has the ability open the space/time continuum – yes, you read that correctly. Anyway, our rather confused twosome do battle for the good of humankind, fighting a host of monsters and even visit Eyes Wide Shut world – oh the horror! Sounds bonkers, doesn’t it, and guess what, it is!
Narrative wise, John Dies at the End is all over the shop, it is without-doubt Coscarelli’s most ambitious film to date, both in terms of story and special effects – considering the modest budget at his disposal. The film does stumble in a couple of sections and what Coscarelli loses in narrative-cohesion, he more than makes up for with humour and charm, something Chase Williamson and Rob Mayes also deserve credit for, as Coscarelli’s lead actors.
The film’s special effects deserve a mention, they’re a mixture of CGI and Stop Motion Animation and anybody who remembers Lister’s battle with the vindaloo monster, in Red Dwarf’s DNA episode, will absolutely love Coscarelli’s meat monster, which isn’t a euphemism – it’s brilliant!
While navigating the script’s twists and turns can be a little tricky, the writing in general is superb, with the majority of the characters coming-off as warm and funny – particularly the leads. John Dies at the End is destined for cult status with students and film fanatics alike, largely because it is, very, very funny. However, the audience that I saw the film with must have been hitting the ‘soy sauce’ a little too hard, ’cause they were laughing at just about anything. Character walks into shot – laughter. Idiots.
John Dies at the End is an ambitious film and I’m pleased to report it succeeds more than it fails, but when it does come a little unstuck, there’s usually another great gag waiting around the corner – eg a door knob which turns into a nice, big, flaccid cock. Yes, that’s its level and quite simply, it works brilliantly.