Uncovering Curiosities: Don Coscarelli’s JOHN DIES AT THE END

Let’s get one thing straight up front – the title is misleading – John does not die at the end. Once you know that you can surrender yourself to Don Coscarelli’s horror-fantasy-comedy. It’s a tonal shock to the system that could only be made outside of the studio system and producer and co-star Paul Giamatti needs to be applauded for getting behind this bizarro endeavour.

John Dies At The End follows David Wong (Chase Williams) and his best friend John (Rob Mayes) as they attempt to save the world from demons. I could go into more detail, but the whole piot is so off the wall, that you either accept it or you don’t. It’s a total genre fusion that is nearly 100% successful in what it sets out to do. Coscarelli’s film is somewhat let down by its ending, which feels a bit flaccid after what has gone before it. Having said that, it works for the most part, feeling like Bill and Ted crossed with H. P. Lovecraft, by way of a Stephen King novel filmed by Kevin Smith.

The film is based on a book by David Wong, and if it is anything like its follow-up, This Book Is Full of Spiders: Seriously Dude Don’t Touch It, then the film’s issues probably lie within the writing. Wong’s writing is so out-there that it’s probably unfilmable (I mean that in a good way). It’s all over the place and trying to achieve a cohesive narrative is going to be very tricky. Coscarelli gives it his all though, and he cannot be faulted for trying. Williams and Mayes give it their all and Giamatti adds a touch of authenticity to proceedings to heighten it in profile from other low budget spoofs (Clancy Brown also pops-up in a cameo).

John Dies At The End has the potential to end up as a cult classic, a film that like-minded people will share and talk about for years to come. Is it up there with revered cult films? Probably not, but it is pretty good fun.

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