Directed by Don Coscarelli (Phantasm, Bubba Ho-Tep), John Dies at the End is based on the novel by David Wong. If you are at all familiar with Coscarelli’s other works, there is more of the same outlandish and bizarre situations. Dave and John have been friends for ages, but after they experiment with the drug known only as ‘soy sauce,’ their eyes and minds are opened in ways that cannot be undone. Finally ready to tell his story, Dave arranges to meet with a journalist (played by Paul Giamatti). His tale is a long and twisted one that starts at a backyard concert and ends in a parallel reality. It is Dave’s hope that he can get someone else to see and understand the freakish creatures that he is surrounded by. But as his story unwinds, it soon becomes clear that there is more to this soy sauce than just witnessing oddities.
I understand that John Dies at the End was met with some disappointment by fans of the novel and of Coscarelli’s previous films. Like Bubba Ho-Tep, John Dies at the End was very long in seeing the light of a cinema, let alone a DVD rack or streaming store. As such, I imagine that the anticipation grew along with the wait. Personally, I was happy with the end result and feel that it blends the best qualities of both Phantasm and Bubba Ho-Tep. Two regular guys try to keep their heads in a world of other-dimensional insects, animated meat and more. The narrative structure is very wavy, which got a bit frustrating at times, but in the end I just took it as part of the film’s charm.
The cast is phenomenal with the aforementioned Paul Giamatti, Clancy Brown and even Phantasm’s ‘tall man’ Angus Scrimm adding to the color and depth of this quirky and weird movie. Surreal horror/comedies are hard to come by these days with the likes of Re-Animator and such a far too distant memory. If you are looking for an unusual horror flick, this should be on your list.