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
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.