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John Dies at the End - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
John Dies at the End
Directing: C
Acting: C+
Writing: C-
Cinematography: B-
Editing: C+
Special Effects: C

Let's just say that John Dies at the End didn't speak to me. This is writer-director Don Coscarelli's feature follow-up to Bubba Ho-Tep (2002), which looked like a great fun romp and kind of fell short of expectations, so I'm not sure why I should have expected any better. These movies that are wacked-out weird just for shits and giggles don't tend to be exactly great works of art -- or even all that memorable, for that matter.

Imagine taking some serious drugs, and while you're on them, you come up with what seems like a totally mind-blowing idea. Then, you actually follow through, and make that movie. John Dies at the End is like watching that movie after sobering up, and then just being like, "...Oh." What the hell was all that effort for?

Not that there really seems to be all that much effort involved. Shoe-string budgets are one thing. Actually I couldn't really tell if the effects were cheesy on purpose, but they don't work very well on either a sincere or an ironic level. The production values are indicative of something someone might have been able to do on their home computer. The same could be said of a movie like Monsters (2010), which is actually criminally under-seen -- but that just proves that in the right hands, even low-budget effects can be rendered well. John Dies at the End feels a little more like stoners goofing off.

Even that would have been fine, if the movie were a little more cohesive, or more funny, or had more depth, or clarity -- any combination or even one of those things. One might assume that this movie got off the ground largely due to the "get" of Paul Giamatti as the writer being told the totally wacked-out story that then gets played out for us, the audience. He's the only recognizable face in this film, which has such poor production values that it's jarring to see him there. He's also evidently the only decent actor. The younger guys, Chase Williamson (as Dave, the narrator), and Rob Mayes (as John, Dave's friend who, you know, dies), are a tad wooden. Coscarelli seems far less concerned with convincing delivery as he is with presenting as bizarre a story as possible.

I don't even know where to begin with describing the premise. There are half-assed attempts in the script at getting it to make sense, but it rarely does. There are alternate dimensions, and an injectable drug referred to as "soy sauce" that's apparently alive and causes either hallucinations or levels of psychic ability and the means to transcend space and time -- all of which is rife for truly imaginative storytelling, and on nearly all fronts is stunted here. It's hardly a spoiler to say John dies in this movie. But this is a movie in which "death" becomes something in quotes -- and by the way? He dies in the middle. Spoiler alert! Maybe there's no reason for it to but that alone annoyed me. I waited for him to die again, or something, and was left unsatisfied. This movie's smugly ironic title turns out to be just a self-satisfied little lie. The fimmakers seem to be saying, "We're fucking with you! Isn't this fun?"

To be fair, sometimes being fucked with by a movie is fun. I just didn't get that from this movie, and mostly it's due to a lack of maturity in the storytelling. How a story is told is just as important as the story itself, if not more so, and on neither level is this movie all that compelling. It never grabs you in the way that movies should; it's just a gleefully yet superficially twisted romp with dark undertones that have no meaning or means of connecting to the audience. Okay, so a bunch of meat comes walking out of a freezer in the shape of a man, with a frozen turkey for a head. The turkey's hole is the mouth!

Maybe I should have been on hallucinogens while watching this movie. I just can't see how that could possibly make it any more fun.

This is John. He actually dies in the middle. Sort of.

Overall: C
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