John Dies At The End (2012)

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The book that this film was based on is one of my favourite novels of recent years, so I was a little nervous when approaching this. How would they put in all my favourite bits? What about the actors playing John and David? Would they get the tone right? Most importantly, would the dog die?

David Wong is telling the story of his recent life to Arnie Blondestone (Paul Giamatti), a journalist who specialises in the weird and the wonderful. This framing device is revisited throughout the film, but it’s also a capper to the story and…I’m getting ahead of myself. David and John are slackers who’ve stumbled upon a supernatural conspiracy to invade our universe, thanks to tiny flying worm things. They know about this thanks to “soy sauce”, some sort of by-product of weird crab-spider things, which when ingested will either kill you or give you beyond phenomenal powers of perception.

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As you can see, this film is a tough one to describe. It’s an absolutely superb adaptation, though – by stripping out some of the subplots and minor characters, they’ve taken a complex book and turned it into a surprisingly rich film (for a shade over 90 minutes). They’ve also made some fairly serious changes to a few characters, but it all works, so if you’ve read the book too and are wondering if you ought to risk seeing this adaptation, risk away I say. John and David become psychic investigators, and it’s their meeting with the beautiful Amy and her very intelligent dog that starts one of the main plot strands along.

Wait! Keep reading! I’ve not mentioned the director yet, ISCFC favourite Don Coscarelli, writer / director of the “Phantasm” movies and “Bubba Ho-Tep”. His love of dream imagery and logic absolutely helps this film along, even though there’s no indication any of this is happening in anyone’s head. It keeps several timelines and genres going at once, smoothly, with humour and while there aren’t too many genuine scares (it’s sort of difficult to be too worried about a film like this, which has a sarcastic voiceover at times) the escalating sense of chaos really works.

Because I can’t be too positive, David (Chase Williamson) is a little too flat, or he’s too detached from the story. John is great though, and so of course is Paul Giamatti (who produced too, which indicates he loved the story before getting involved – well, that and he’s the biggest name in this film by a mile). It’s also nice to see Angus Scrimm, the Tall Man himself, pop up in a brief appearance. Give it a go, I say. Don’t let it be dismissed to genre mashup purgatory like “Bubba Ho-Tep”.

Rating: thumbs up

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