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John Dies at the End | Review

If Only Everyone Else Did, Too

If you’re seeking shamefacedly cheesy special effects, a lobotomized H.P. Lovecraft inspired tale, and mortifyingly bad performances, then look no further than cult master Don Coscarelli’s latest film, John Dies At the End, which amounts to a continuous string of miscarriages pasted together to create one dull thud. Coasting in to Sundance 2012 for a midnight premiere, this disingenuous tomfoolery would never appear at a top tier event if not for the cult status of its overrated director.

Rob Mayes stars as John, and with his buddy Dave (Chase Williamson), the two young twentysomethings discover they can read minds after taking a mind altering substance that they dub “soy sauce,” a drug that truly promises an out of body experience. But as nifty as it is talking to animals, the two realize they’re in for some trouble when they discover that taking the drug involves other dimensions and parallel existences. Meanwhile, we determine that most of their tale happens to be told in flashback as Dave narrates his story to a newspaper reporter (Paul Giamatti), who becomes interested in the duo because of their large online cult status for chasing after extra dimensional beings and the like. And Dave and John have discovered that there’s an invasion taking place, one that may cause the end of the world and existence as they know it.

While John Dies At the End may be based on a popular novel by David Wong (also the name of the main protagonist) you’d hardly guess it after viewing Coscarelli’s treatment, which plays like it was made by a Lynch obsessed film student hell-bent on injecting a convoluted narrative with more sarcastic, apathetic humor than even the likes of Morrissey could ever hope to digest. The downright terrible special effects aside (comparative to fare like Wishmaster, 1997) Coscarelli’s tale never seems to get off the ground, announcing itself as a framed narrative a third of the way in, only to give us Giamatti, doing absolutely nothing. The best way to describe the whole ordeal is cheap. It’s obvious Coscarelli still has his audience out there, but unless your hearing and vision may be impaired, there’s not one element to salvage in this utter waste of time, the only tension begat by the anticipation of the titular John’s death, thereby heralding the end of the feature.

Reviewed on January 24th at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival – MIDNIGHT Programme.

108 Mins.

Rating 1 stars

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Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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