Review: John Dies At The End


For Don Coscarelli it all started in 1979 with the release of the Phantasm franchise, a further three films would span from there leaving his name firmly in the horror genre. Coscarelli would go on to produce and direct the well praised horror-comedy Bubba Ho-Tep, over 10 years have passed and Coscarelli is back, bringing us an adaptation of David Wong's book 'John Dies At The End'.

Sometimes book to film adaptations are hard, going up against the book club is always a challenge, without reading the book and watching it as a standalone film JDATE is immense. I always think of it as exactly that, an adaptation. Staying true to a book down to the letter is a mighty task, but most directors try their best to incorporate the main elements and capture just what made the book great in the first place.

The plot for JDATE is one hell of a ride, it's interesting, pacey and there's so much content I would be impressed if you can grasp it all in one sitting. Dave and John are two friends cruising through life without many cares in the world, after a party they stumble upon a drug called 'Soy Sauce', a drug that gives the biggest out of body experience! It enables users to travel between time and space, and to different dimensions, and you can use a dog as a communication vessel.....obviously! An invasion from another world is on the cards and it's up to John and Dave to save the day!

The film is delivered in a great narrative, Dave meets with a reporter (Dave Giamatti) to tell him the whole story, we are shown flashbacks as the story goes back and forth between past, present and future. Really quite an immersive way to deliver the plot, keeping up with what's happening or trying to establish if it has actually happened or is going to happen is what helps JDATE to stay so fresh.

One thing is clear the plot is not predictive in the slightest, it is truly ambitious and there is that much happening on screen with the scenes taking different tangents at every opportunity. All packed in to a 99 minute run time which seems to speed through with a blazing glory.

The high rate cast delivers a solid script devoid of unnecessary cliché one liners, or the usual padding, nowhere to be seen here. Some of the stand out characters are, Clancy (Shawshank Redemption) Brown, playing a clairvoyant come medium, helping out the duo where possible. Dave Giamatti as Arnie the reporter, listening to Dave's far-fetched unbelievable story in real-time. Standout performances also come from, Fabianne Therese, Glynn Turman and Doug (Pan's Labyrinth) Jones all adding a real personality to the film.

A mention needs to go to the on screen gore, there's a nice mixture of CGI elements and old school bucket blood, it's safe to say the effects team have delivered a stunner. There are a handful of standout 'wow' moments when it comes to gore, one of my favourites being the headshot scene! Zero cutaways and seriously brutal!! Watching JDATE you realise these are not just gore 'scenes', thought has gone into every moment and the uniqueness displayed is eye widening.

Don Coscarelli showed in Bubba Ho-Tep that horror-comedy is well within his capability and JDATE is no exception. Some of the scenes shown are on acid and then some! Whatever inspired Coscarelli is a mystery but it appears to be a concoction of Bill and Ted, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Men In Black to name a few.
Imaginative is one word that has deeply embedded itself through the whole film. When you are watching a fully functional meat beast, within the first 15 minutes, you know you are not watching your run of the mill horror-comedy!

Overall JDATE is a humorous, intergalactic, time travelling, battle gore fest that is as visceral as a monkey juggling chainsaws whilst walking on a tight rope and singing classical Pavarotti....pitch perfect of is that crazy, one dimensional it is not, it has that many it's hard to keep up at times. It's easy to see why JDATE has taken the independent scene by force, it's simply incredible.

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