Combustible Celluloid
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With: Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Paul Giamatti, Clancy Brown, Glynn Turman, Doug Jones, Daniel Roebuck, Fabianne Therese, Jonny Weston, Jimmy Wong, Tai Bennett, Allison Weissman, Ethan Erickson, Pranidhi Varshney, Kevin Michael Richardson
Written by: Don Coscarelli, based on a novel by David Wong
Directed by: Don Coscarelli
MPAA Rating: R for bloody violence and gore, nudity, language and drug content
Running Time: 99
Date: 23/01/2012

John Dies at the End (2012)

3 Stars (out of 4)

On the Sauce

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Cult director Don Coscarelli -- maker of the Phantasm series and Bubba Ho-Tep -- usually brings unhinged imagination and bizarre humor to his horror movies, which probably leads viewers into not taking him very seriously. John Dies at the End doesn't change that at all. Distantly echoing Brazil, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Naked Lunch, and other items of that ilk, it's a loony, oddball, clumsy, illogical, outlandish, gory slice of "what the heck is going on?"

After a prologue in which a zombie is beheaded and an axe is repaired, David Wong (Chase Williamson) speaks to a reporter (Paul Giamatti) in a Chinese restaurant, documenting his strange story. His friend John (Rob Mayes) has ingested a new street drug called "soy sauce" that allows users to see and know things, but they also experience fearsome side effects like creepy monsters. John frantically calls David for help, and David accidentally takes the drug as well. This sends them both on a crazy adventure that involves a professional magician (Clancy Brown), a lost dog, and a giant creature from another dimension that may be looking to take over the earth. Are David and John up to the challenge? And will John really die at the end?

The movie's detractors so far have focused on the approach of adapting of the novel, the sub-par visual effects, and the idea that it fails to keep up its level of craziness: it's either too crazy or not crazy enough. All of this misses what's actually there in the movie; it establishes during the "riddle" of the first two minutes that nothing can be nailed down or relied upon. Viewers that can give up all their preconceived notions and go along for the wild ride will have a fun, memorable time.

Magnet/Magnolia released a terrific new Blu-ray, complete with a commentary track by director Coscarelli (plus the producer and the two leads), about 10 minutes of deleted scenes, a short making-of featurette, and several other little featurettes, plus trailers.

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