John Dies in the End - 2012
John Dies in the End is written and directed by Don Coscarelli (The Beastmaster). The screenplay is based on a book series by David Wong, that originally started as a web-serial. Despite the mixed reviews by critics, it has developed a cult following among its devoted fans. The cast is mostly comprised of relatively unknown actors, with Paul Giamatti being the exception. The story centers around… well I’ll just copy paste the plot synopsis from IMdB: “A new street drug that sends its users across time and dimensions has one drawback: some people return as no longer human. Can two college dropouts save humankind from this silent, otherworldly invasion?”.
I’ll be up-front with you before I get too deep in the review: I didn’t like this movie. This movie is weird. Don’t get me wrong, I love weird movies. Being John Malkovich is one of my favorite movies of all time. But movie “weirdness” must always have a purpose or a meaning behind it. I was on board to some extent with this movie until I felt myself losing interest as it got more and more random. For most of the ruining time of JDITE, I keep asking myself “But, why?”. It honestly felt like the writer kept saying to himself, “that’s not weird enough”, instead of giving us something interesting. Before you say, maybe I didn’t get it, please comment below with the deeper meaning behind a doorknob turning into a penis.
Don Coscarelli’s direction overall was solid. He had a great flow between wide shots and close-up of the characters, helping move the plot forward. Throughout the movie, Giamatti is interviewing one of the two college dropouts trying to understand the crazy events that have been going on. The way he would cut in and out of the conversation was very well executed and I always enjoyed whenever the story would come back to this interview. I would’ve loved to see more use of practical effects, but the ones that he did employ where very well made. There is scene where a demon takes the form of assorted meat products. I liked the design of the creature and it was a funny scene.
Some of the visuals are interesting, with the cinematography playing a big role in their effectiveness. But without any true meaning or purpose, by the end they all add up to nothing.
The acting is fine overall. The two leads are played by Chase Williamson as Dave and Rob Mayes as John. Out of the two, Rob is the weaker link. His character is a weird mix of jock, punk-rock and cocky dumb friend. He never created a believable balance between the three aspects of his character, so I never fully bought into his persona. Chase had the job of being our vehicle into this world, so for the most part he is just reacting to the craziness around him. His best scenes by far are between him and Giamatti as he tries to sell his story to a person always trying to find the logic explanation to everything. The lone stand-out is Paul Giamatti, but did you truly expect anything different? He is one of the most underrated character actors working in Hollywood today. Also, his character has a nice arc that I didn’t see coming at all.
While John Dies in the End certainly has found a following among cinephile, I won’t be one of them. It had potential to be more than it was and it could’ve been at least a fun watch. I still enjoyed Paul Giamatti and he is why I love movies.
John Dies in the End is currently streaming on Netflix. My interest dies half way through.
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