John Dies at the End DVD Review
Written by James Ferguson
DVD released by Magnet Releasing
Written and directed by Don Coscarelli
Based on the book by David Wong
2012, Region 1, 99 Minutes, Rated R
DVD Released on April 2nd, 2013
Chase Williamson as Dave
Rob Mayes as John
Paul Giamatti as Arnie Blondestone
Clancy Brown as Dr. Albert Marconi
Glynn Turman as Detective
Doug Jones as Roger North
Some movies are weird for the sake of being weird, as if the filmmakers wanted to make something different but didn't have a story to back it up. Then there are movies like John Dies at the End, which are weird and sort of make sense. Based on the novel of the same name by David Wong, the film centers on Dave (Chase Williamson), an amateur ghost hunter who gets caught up in an insane, otherworldly adventure wrapped around a strange, hallucinogenic drug called soy sauce. Before he knows it, Dave is fighting alien bugs, seeing people that aren't there, and talking to hot dogs. This is just where the fun starts.
As full disclosure, I haven't read the book that this is based on, but I'm very much intrigued by it after watching the movie. I've tried to boil the premise down to a simple few sentences, but I don't think that does all the nuances of the story justice. There's a lot going on but it never gets confusing or hard to follow. Instead, John Dies at the End is a trippy ride where everything falls into place.
That's not to say that there aren't some parts that just don't seem to make any sense. There are a few aspects of the film, especially towards the very end, that seem to come completely out of nowhere. Some characters, such as Dr. Albert Marconi (Clancy Brown) or Roger North (Doug Jones), feel underutilized, as if there was more to them than what was seen. Marconi has a connection to Dave and John (Rob Mayes), but it's not explained at all, and Roger North pops in and out of the movie when it's convenient.
This is Chase Williamson's first feature film and he carries the whole thing from beginning to end. His performance is top notch as Dave goes from cynical skeptic to true believer with the help of the soy sauce. He dives head first into the rabbit hole, accepting all of the new things that he's seeing. He could be shocked and petrified at any one of them, but instead he goes with the flow and embraces it.
John Dies at the End is like a bizarre cross between Crank and Primer. Yes, there are some time travel parts, but you don't need a guide to follow everything. Instead, it's easiest to just sit back and take in the crazy stuff that comes your way. After all, in what other movie besides Sideways are you going to see a penis door handle, a meat monster, and Paul Giamatti with an ugly beard?
Video and Audio:
The DVD is presented in widescreen format at 1.78:1 ratio. The audio track is an English Dolby Digital 5.1. The video is very clear, however the green screen work could have used some more touching up. It's blatantly obvious when these scenes show up because the characters and the background are two entirely different tones.
Outside of a commentary with Writer / Director Don Coscarelli, Producer Brad Baruh, Chase Williamson, and Rob Mayes, there are a handful of other features, but nothing that really adds to the film. Two small featurettes entitled Getting Sauced: The Making of John Dies at the End and Creature Corps: The Effects of Soy Sauce offer little additional info and look like footage shot one afternoon between takes. Also included are a few deleted scenes, video of the casting sessions, and a Fangoria interview with Paul Giamatti.