PASS THE SOY SAUCE: A REVIEW OF JOHN DIES AT THE END!

Posted on Jan 18, 2013 in All Reviews, Best of the Best | 0 comments

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THE LATEST BOLT OF BEAUTIFUL MADNESS FROM THE MAN WHO BROUGHT US PHANTASM AND BUBBA HO-TEP!

Like most horror fans, I savor the bizarre.

While I love the camp value of wisecracking slashers and the comfortable familiarity of evil puppets in toilets, I am always far more interested in films that truly break molds and go where only underground books usually dare to tread. In today’s creatively inept world of remakes, re-imaginings, re-dos and reruns, it has become all the more difficult to weed out the shining jewels of originality that are pushed to the very back rows of exposure.

Leave it to cult genre legend Don Coscarelli to be rather silent for a decade after blessing us with Bubba Ho-Tep, only to break that silence with one of the most widely original films I have ever seen.

The important thing to me in writing a review of John Dies at the End is making sure it is spoiler free. Rest assured that, as a writer myself, I can’t stand the page-skipping types who want to ruin a creative craftsman’s hard work.  I actually knew nothing about the movie going into it, which was a difficult feat for a horror blogger. I even resisted the urge to watch the trailers because I wanted to go in as blind as I could.

Because when I heard that Coscarelli had a new movie in the works… man, that was all I needed to know.

He is one of the most interesting filmmakers we have, in my opinion; an enigmatic voice that rarely releases work but when he does it is like nothing you’ve ever even dreamed. Think of him as the filmmaking equivalent to the mad musical genius, Scott Walker.

Coscarelli’s work isn’t released… it’s unleashed.

JOHN DIES AT THE END (2013)

Meet our young heroes, David and John, a new generation of ghostbusters. They are two comical dudes (very likably portrayed by Chase Williamson and Rob Mayes) who work in the paranormal, dealing with haunters from other dimensions and all sorts of otherworldly insects. Their extrasensory perception, clairvoyance, and Hunter S. Thompson LSD-trip style brain activity make them ideal candidates to assist people in battling the paranormal.

This film tells the story of how they went from suburban teenagers to inter-dimensional time travelers in just a few scrambled days of sheer lunacy.

At a burnout party, John tries a new drug known as Soy Sauce. In an effort to help John detox, David comes to John’s aid and accidentally gets a dose of the sauce himself. But unlike most drugs that make you see things that are not there, Soy Sauce actually enhances your senses so acutely that you can see what has always been there but has gone unseen, as well as what will be, what could be, and multiple other versions of reality stretched infinitely throughout time and space.

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Their new six senses ensnare them in a paranoid murder mystery of intergalactic proportions as they try to save themselves, the universe, and even parallel universes, from the wrath of inexplicable evil things.

Sound good? Damn right.

Throw in a Clancy Brown as a professional clairvoyant, Glynn Turman as a vigilante detective, Fabianne Therese as a one-handed love interest, a heroic dog, Paul Giamatti as a skeptical reporter, and one Hell of an Angus Scrimm cameo, and you’ve rounded out the best damn movie I have seen in years.  Watch it and watch it now.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

John Dies at the End launches you right into the screaming throat of crazy. Its bizarre and unrelenting in its whirlwind storytelling (think Fight Club meets Donnie Darko meets Total Recall). However, it isn’t weird just for the sake of weird. It’s not some snooty, go-nowhere strangeness like Inland Empire.

There is a fluid story here, based on the wild novel by Jason Pargin (writing as David Wong, the main character). Coscarelli crafted an excellent screenplay that suits his ride the nightmare directing style too. The comic elements are in perfect balance with the surreal scares, including a monster we meet early on that had me crying and barking with laughter (don’t worry, you’ll know when you see it).

Speaking of the monsters, there is a fair balance of practical and CGI effects, all of which are done very well. From alternate worlds to flying, killer mustaches, the visuals astound and delight.

The performances are top notch, with everyone approaching the wacky material without an ounce of camp. Williamson is excellent as Dave, and we sympathize with his character being catapulted from one insane situation to the next. Mayes brings the funny as John, and even brings the badass when it’s blowtorch time. And Giamatti, being a huge fan of Coscarelli’s other work, is clearly thrilled to participate by utilizing his notable talent.

This movie is an ingenious juggernaut of filmmaking achievement, and proof that Coscarelli keeps getting better. It is a total mind-fuck upon first viewing, and I believe it is one of those puzzles that fits all the more snugly together after multiple viewings. I know I’ll be snagging the DVD the very moment that I can. For now, you can see it before it hits theaters, just as I did, by renting the download online.

  • RATING: 13 out of 5. It’s brain-shatteringly good and defies all math as we can comprehend it.

  • CHICK OF THE LITTER: Well, there is a small of army of topless, masked women in another world.

BARTENDER’S NOTES

You’ll feel drunk watching this one sober. Still, as your barman I feel employed to recommend an adequate beverage.

From Left Hand Brewing Company comes the Wake Up Dead Stout, a heavy, earthy Russian Imperial that resonates with the flavors of raisins, chocolate and licorice.

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This thick mother is big on flavor, so don’t bother trying to pair it with anything else as it dominates the palate. And at 10.20% a bottle, a stack of these mind-benders may have you feeling like you’re on the soy sauce yourself.

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What do you think?