John Dies at the End (film)

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John Dies at the End
John dies at the end poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Don Coscarelli
Produced by
  • Brad Baruh
  • Don Coscarelli
  • Andy Meyers
  • Roman Perez
Written by Don Coscarelli
Based on John Dies at the End 
by David Wong
Music by Brian Tyler
Cinematography Mike Gioulakis
Edited by
  • Donald Milne
  • Don Coscarelli
Distributed by Magnet Releasing
Release dates
  • January 23, 2012 (2012-01-23) (Sundance)
  • January 25, 2013 (2013-01-25) (United States)
Running time 100 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget Less than $1 million[2]
Box office $141,951[3]

John Dies at the End is a 2012 American dark comedy horror film written and directed by Don Coscarelli, based on David Wong's novel of the same name.[4][5] Principal photography began in October 2010,[6] and by January 2011, the project had entered post-production for a planned theatrical 2013 release. The film stars Chase Williamson and Rob Mayes, with Paul Giamatti, Clancy Brown, Glynn Turman, Daniel Roebuck, and Doug Jones. Despite its mixed critical response, the film has developed a cult following.[2]


Slacker David Wong beheads a zombie skinhead with an axe and asks whether an axe that had its handle and head replaced over time is still the same axe. David next appears in a restaurant and recounts his story to reporter Arnie Blondestone. When David claims to have psychic powers, Arnie reacts skeptically but listens to a story about how David and his friend John try to help a woman harassed by her dead boyfriend. When they realize that they're perceiving her differently, she explodes into snakes and reforms into a monster made of frozen meat. The monster demands a showdown with its nemesis, TV infomercial psychic Albert Marconi, who destroys it over the telephone.

Annoyed at Arnie's skepticism, David quiets him by recounting Arnie's last dream and continues his story from the beginning. When David and Fred Chu attend a concert by John and his band, they witness Amy Sullivan being teased by wannabe-gangsta Justin White. Amy's dog Bark Lee has gone missing after biting Robert Marley, a Jamaican drug dealer, who, despite David's skepticism, displays psychic powers. David then finds and cares for Bark Lee. That night, David receives a frantic call from John, who seems paranoid and delusional. David recovers a syringe and tries to take John to the hospital; John refuses and describes buying a drug from Marley. John claims the drug, called "soy sauce", gives him a non-linear perception of time and the ability to perceive alternate dimensions. David doesn't believe him until he receives a call from John on his phone, despite John's being there in person.

As they drive off, John falls unconscious, and David is accidentally pricked by the syringe, which causes severe hallucinations, including an inter-dimensional traveler, Roger North. North attaches a giant leech to David, but before North can explain himself, David causes him to disappear when he kills the leech. Immediately afterward, Detective Lawrence Appleton takes them to the police station, where they are interrogated separately, and David realizes that he can predict Appleton's questions. Appleton reveals that John is the only known survivor of a drug party that includes White and, after being called out of the room, tells David that John has died. At this point, Arnie interrupts the story and again expresses skepticism, but David convinces him by demonstrating a caged monster visible only from a certain perspective.

Back at the police station, Appleton leaves again, and David gets another call from John, who guides his escape. David arrives at Marley's house, where he's confronted first by Appleton, then White, who appears possessed by a collective known as "Shitload". White kidnaps David, Fred, Amy, Bark Lee, and John, who has returned his consciousness to his body, and takes them to a mall, where he reveals a "ghost door" that can only be opened by Amy. Appleton arrives and kills White, though Shitload possesses Appleton and Fred in turn, both of whom are killed. John, David, and the dog go through the door after Amy opens it. On the other side, they meet North and Marconi, who have teamed up against a sentient organic computer known as Korrok, the source of all the anomalies; Marconi tasks them with Korrok's destruction.

Naked disciples of Korrok welcome John and David, describing a brutal utilitarian society that Korrok rules mercilessly. When the team is brought before Korrok, the disciples reveal that Korrok requires their sacrifice so that it can absorb their knowledge, travel to their dimension, and conquer it. Although John fails to activate an experimental bomb, Bark Lee sacrifices itself to destroy Korrok. Upon escaping, David and John meet Marconi, who reveals that they were only recruited as escorts for Bark Lee. At the restaurant, David explains that the dog was dosed with "soy sauce" after biting Marley and became connected to Marconi and North. Although Arnie agrees to publish David's story, he turns out to be a ghost and subsequently disappears. During the end credits, David and John travel to another dimension and decline a request to save it.



In 2007, Don Coscarelli optioned the film rights to the comedic horror novel John Dies at the End.[6] The novel, written by David Wong, was first published online as a webserial beginning in 2001, then as an edited manuscript in 2004, and then as a paperback edition in 2007. Coscarelli stated, "I was greatly impressed by David Wong's crazed originality and impressive imagination. He's like a mash-up of Douglas Adams and Stephen King, both smart and goofy, scary and funny – it really spoke to me. [It] is as addictive as the 'Soy Sauce' street drug that kicks the plot into gear."[7]

Executive produced by Daniel Carey and Paul Giamatti, with producers Don Coscarelli, Brad Baruh, Andy Meyers, Roman Perez, Aaron Godfred, and Josh Lewin, M3 Alliance, M3 Creative, and Midnight Alliance "secretly" began principal photography in October 2010.[6] This was confirmed after hints posted by Coscarelli on his Twitter page were verified.[4][8][9] Filming took place on locations in Southern California. On January 27, 2011, Coscarelli announced on his Twitter page that principal photography had been completed and that the film has entered post-production,[10] for extensive visual FX work. The film premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival on January 23, 2012.[11] Variety reported that the film was produced on a budget of less than seven figures.[2]

Coscarelli told Entertainment Weekly, "I had been reading zombie fiction. So I ordered these books and the Amazon robots sent me this email: 'If you like that, you will love John Dies at the End’. And it listed all these things [about Wong's book]. Literally, when I read the email, I thought, 'This would make a great movie.'"[12]

Giamatti called the novel "an embarrassment of riches" and said: "what's going to be tragic is what's going to have to go, because stuff is going to have to go and [...] it will kill me whatever goes, because you want it all to be in there and you've still got to have this stuffed bag of stuff." He also praised the actors and Coscarelli's choices, stating, "Don cast it brilliantly. The actors were so good."[13]


In August 2012, Magnet Releasing announced that they had acquired the rights to the film.[14] The film premiered to wider audiences via video on demand services on December 27, 2012; however, it was only available in the US. It opened in theaters on January 25, 2013.[15] It was released on DVD on April 2, 2013.[16]


Film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 61% of 80 surveyed critics gave the film a positive review, with an average score of 5.7/10. The site's consensus states: "Some will find the darkly funny, genre-bending incoherence of John Dies at the End charming; some will feel its zany antics and gore lead to an unsatisfying payoff."[17] On Metacritic the film has a score of 53/100 based on 27 reviews, which indicates "mixed or average reviews".[18]

A. O. Scott of the New York Times called it "a ridiculous, preposterous, sometimes maddening experience, but also kind of a blast."[19] IGN editor Chris Tilly wrote, "The end result is a film that veers all over the place; a dark, hilarious and consistently twisted feature that amuses for long periods, bores in patches, and astounds in others still."[20] Variety '​s Rob Nelson called it "a thoroughly unpredictable horror-comedy — and an immensely entertaining one, too."[21] Steven Rea of the Philadelphia Inquirer rated it 4/5 stars and called it "over-the-top, gross, and funny ... deeply amusing, in the sickest possible way."[22] James Berardinelli rated it 2/4 stars and called it an "interesting failure."[23] Writing at NPR, Scott Tobias said that the film tries too hard to attract a cult following and relies on "calculated insanity".[24] In a highly negative review, Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle praised Giamatti's acting and said that it raised the film from "Worst Movie Ever Made" to "One of the Worst of 2013".[25]


  1. ^ "JOHN DIES AT THE END (15)". British Board of Film Classification. July 9, 2013. Retrieved July 9, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c Stewart, Andrew (February 2, 2013). "Happy 'End' for cult pic". Variety. Retrieved January 28, 2014. 
  3. ^ "John Dies at the End (2013)". Box Office Mojo. April 11, 2013. Retrieved June 13, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Zimmerman, Samuel (October 22, 2010). "Coscarelli helming "John Dies at the End"". Fangoria. Archived from the original on February 9, 2011. Retrieved January 12, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Don Coscarelli dirigerà John Dies at the End". Film Review (in Italian). October 22, 2010. Retrieved January 12, 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c Quint (October 21, 2010). "Quint knows what Don Coscarelli's new movie is! And more importantly he knows Paul Giamatti and The Kurgan are in it!". Ain't It Cool News. Retrieved January 12, 2011. 
  7. ^ Butane, Johnny (February 19, 2008). "Coscarelli Talks John Dies at the End". DreadCentral. Retrieved January 12, 2011. 
  8. ^ Barton, Steve (October 20, 2010). "Don Coscarelli Teasing New Project". DreadCentral. Retrieved January 15, 2011. 
  9. ^ Brown, Todd (October 22, 2010). "Don Coscarelli's Latest Revealed As John Dies at the End". Twitch Film. Retrieved January 12, 2011. 
  10. ^ Coscarelli, Don (January 27, 2011). "John Dies at the End" just starting post and VFX". Twitter. Retrieved February 14, 2011. 
  11. ^ "Four Additional Films Selected for 2012 Sundance Film Festival". December 19, 2011. Retrieved June 13, 2013. 
  12. ^ Collis, Clark (January 25 – February 1, 2013). "The Craziest Horror Comedy of 2013?". Entertainment Weekly (New York: Time Inc.) (1243): 102. 
  13. ^ Quint (February 14, 2011). "Quint has a brief chat with Paul Giamatti about his Sundance hit Win Win as well as the upcoming cult flick John Dies At The End!". Ain't It Cool News. Retrieved 29 March 2011. 
  14. ^ Fernandez, Jay A. (August 22, 2012). "Magnet Releasing Attracts Don Coscarelli's Sundance-SXSW Flick 'John Dies at the End'". Indiewire. Retrieved September 11, 2014. 
  15. ^ McNary, Dave (August 22, 2012). "Magnet buys 'John Dies at the End'". Variety. Retrieved May 7, 2013. 
  16. ^ Uno, Lorie Taki (April 2, 2013). "'John Dies at the End,' 'The Sweeney' | New DVDs". Seattle Times. Retrieved January 28, 2014. 
  17. ^ "John Dies at the End". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 29, 2013. 
  18. ^ "John Dies at the End Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved December 29, 2013. 
  19. ^ Scott, A. O. (January 31, 2013). "Addictive 'Soy Sauce' With Ruinous Power". The New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2014. 
  20. ^ Tilly, Chris (March 16, 2012). "John Dies at the End Review". IGN. Retrieved May 7, 2013. 
  21. ^ Nelson, Rob (February 5, 2012). "Review: 'John Dies at the End'". Variety. Retrieved May 12, 2014. 
  22. ^ Rea, Steven (February 8, 2013). "'John Dies at the End': Loopy, icky sci-fi with crazy soy sauce". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved May 12, 2014. 
  23. ^ Berardinelli, James (January 24, 2013). "John Dies at the End". Retrieved May 12, 2014. 
  24. ^ Tobias, Scott (January 24, 2013). "Spoiler Alert: 'John Dies,' But The Rest? Who Can Tell?". NPR. Retrieved May 12, 2014. 
  25. ^ LaSalle, Mick (February 7, 2013). "'John Dies at the End' review: Die sooner, John". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved August 26, 2013. 

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