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John Dies at the End (3 stars)

Self-conciously bizarre cult comedy offering from director Don Coscarelli

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John Dies at the End

Penned by Senior Editor at Cracked.com David Wong (real name Jason Pargin), the 2009 novel John Dies at the End was a comedy-horror tornado of cultural references, paranormality and winking self-awareness. Cult filmmaker Don Coscarelli (Phantasm, Bubba Ho-tep) lent the book some status by accurately describing it as ‘mash-up of Douglas Adams and Stephen King’ – whether he was already on board to direct this adaptation at the time is hard to say. Regardless, the film stays true to the book’s spirit, if not every detail of its bizarro plotline.

Dave (Chase Williamson) is a spaced out slacker whose world takes a turn for the weird when he’s introduced to a mind-altering drug nicknamed ‘soy sauce’. As he recounts his story to a skeptical journalist (Paul Giamatti), his narrative covers topics from phantom limbs and parallel worlds to possessed meat-men and the clairvoyant properties of bratwurst. Is he just a drugged-up burnout who’s imagining all this? Or is soy sauce really the key to another dimension?

With such scattershot source material, the film adaptation was always primarily going to be an exercise in streamlining, and vast swathes of the book (including a lengthy road trip to Vegas) are gone. Unfortunately, the sense of whirlwind delirium that resulted from Wong’s numerous tangents and red herrings has been excised as well, leaving us with an enjoyable but less than totally absorbing linear adventure. The characterisation of both Dave and his best buddy John (Rob Mayes) also suffers, boiling the characters down to their respective ‘dopey space cadet’ and ‘hyper frat boy’ essentials. That said, fans of both Coscarelli’s previous output and the irreverent Cracked house style will not be disappointed. As for John’s dubious mortality... well, that would be telling wouldn’t it?

On release from Fri 22 Mar.

John Dies at the End

  • 3 stars
  • 2012
  • US
  • 99 min
  • Directed by: Don Coscarelli
  • Cast: Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Paul Giamatti
  • UK release: 22 March 2013

A comedy-horror tornado of cultural references, paranormality and winking self-awareness. Dave (Chase) is a spaced out slacker whose world takes a turn for the weird when he’s introduced to a mind-altering drug nicknamed ‘soy sauce’ who recounts his story to a skeptical journalist (Giamatti). Is he just a drugged-up…

John Dies at the End Teaser Trailer

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