This bonkers indie sci-fi head trip has 'cult classic' stamped all over it....
Magnolia / 99 Minutes / 2012 / Rated R / Street Date: April 2, 2013
It comes really close. John Dies at the End is a gonzo nightmare comedy about mumblecore slackers and their connections with parallel universes that plays in its most impressive moments like a Doctor Who episode directed by Quentin Tarantino. Postmodern and reflexive to a fault, this is the sort of late-Friday movie-night affair that geeks flock to: it may not be air-tight, but the fact that it exists at all is a reason to celebrate.
Chase Williamson and Rob Mayes play David and John, respectively, and when we meet our title pair, some intense shit is going down. As it happens, it turns out that some ‘soy sauce’ the duo are enjoying at a Chinese restaurant isn’t just a salty condiment – it’s a mind-warping hallucinogenic that gives them access to intergalactic in addition to violent, often weird-ass visions. And once this drug kicks in, they learn some other stuff, too: there’s a huge alien conspiracy at hand, and if they don’t act against it, they’ll probably be E.T. food before they know it.
I hesitate to offer anything more in terms of exposition, because the act of discovery is John Dies at the End’s most valuable asset. Repeat viewings are not going to be particularly rewarding – narrative and rhetorical potholes appear early and often here – but in a cinematic land populated with dum-dum drama, watching a movie as balls-out nuts as this one is a welcome change of pace.
Sci-fi dorks will have a blast with John Dies at the End, even if the movie itself doesn’t hold up under intense scrutiny. Buzz on the movie makes it seems like the novel by David Wong is even better than this adaptation (surprise, surprise), but don’t let that deter you from giving this oddity a spin. It’s not entirely successful as a movie, but this Don Coscarelli picture truly goes for it in terms of its nutball story arc – it’s impossible not to fall under its spell just a little.