14th Mar2013

‘John Dies at the End’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Paul Giamatti, Clancy Brown, Glynn Turman, Doug Jones, Jonny Weston, Angus Scrimm | Written and Directed by Don Coscarelli


Sometimes there are films that are so hyped up, be it by your own mind or by others, that they could never live up to your expectations. Then there are films out there which you feel are made just for you and in the end are bitter disappointments…

Then there’s John Dies at the End.

Hyped up by not only by genre fans, but fans of the book and fans of the director, it’s the kind of movie that has “my kind of film” written all over it. Written and directed by Don Coscarelli, whose oeuvre holds a dear place in my horror-loving heart, John Dies at the End is literally the epitome of the word quirky. An off-the-wall, time travel sci-fi fantasy that mixes genres like you mix a cocktail, the film is not only worthy of the hype but also worthy of adding to any (and I do mean any) genre fans collection. Especially mine.

It’s safe to say I’ve loved everything Don Coscarelli has done. I’ve loved some more than others and I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t, at least at first, “get” Bubba Ho-Tep (it’s still the least of his films in my opinion). But with John Dies at the End Coscarelli has outdone himself, creating a new supernatural franchise that I would undoubtedly love to see more of, even (shock horror) at the expense of any possible new Phantasm film!

To explain the plot in depth would both spoil proceedings and make this possibly one of the longest reviews I’ve ever written. To cut a long, convoluted, but amazing story short the film tells the tale of two slackers who end up saving the world from an alien infestation from a parallel universe. The film itself unfolds as David Wong tells his story – that of John, Amy, Bark Lee the dog and himself uncovering the infestation and then stopping it – to a journalist, played by Paul Giamatti who is also an executive producer on the film, in a Chinese restaurant somewhere in Los Angeles. With the story flitting between the now, the then and the somewhere else entirely this is one mind-fuck of a film (think William H. Burrough’s level of weirdness); and one that deserves multiple viewings to get the most out of the movie’s many nuances – nuances not only in Coscarelli’s script and his direction but in that of the cast, especially Chase Williamson and Paul Giamatti.

Speaking of Chase Williamson, his rapport with fellow newcomer Rob Mayes (who plays the John of the films title) is remarkably believable and their on-screen chemistry holds the film together in it’s most ridiculously outrageous moments. Even more remarkable is that John Dies at the End is the duo’s first headline roles, from their performances it seems like the pair have been doing this for years! Mention should also be made of Clancy Brown’s gloriously OTT fun performance as the Vegas-style spiritualist Dr. Marconi, whose cheesy commercials and ridiculous stage shows hides the fact that Marconi is, in fact, a real psychic.

In the pantheon of American cinema there have been few true cult movies: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, Big Trouble in Little China and Coscarelli’s very own Phantasm to name a few. Well you can add John Dies at the End to that list – with it’s fantastic and fantastical story featuring meat monsters, time travel, aliens and magical soy sauce, this is the kind of film whose fanbase will grow as the years go by and be spoken about by cult movie fans for many more…

John Dies at the End, is when alls said and done, a truly unmissable movie.

***** 5/5


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