John Dies at the End (film)
|John Dies at the End|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Don Coscarelli|
|Written by||Don Coscarelli|
|Based on||John Dies at the End
by David Wong
|Music by||Brian Tyler|
|Distributed by||Magnet Releasing|
|Budget||Less than $1 million|
John Dies at the End is a 2012 American dark fantasy science fiction horror film written and directed by Don Coscarelli, based on David Wong's novel of the same name. Principal photography began in October 2010, 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, Variety and Wired magazines named it a cult film.
David Wong recalls confronting a zombie skinhead whom he beheaded one year prior and wonders whether an axe that had its handle and head replaced over time is still the same axe. This is a play on the classic problem in philosophy and metaphysics known as the Ship of Theseus. He sits in a restaurant and recounts his story to reporter Arnie Blondestone.
David is at a party with his friend John. He and Fred Chu witness Justin White teasing Amy Sullivan, who has an amputated hand. David learns that Amy's dog, Bark Lee, has gone missing after biting a drug dealer named Robert Marley. As he leaves the party, David sees Bark next to his car, then suddenly feels sick and drives home. That night, David receives a frantic call from John, who seems delusional. At John's apartment, David recovers a syringe containing a black substance, oblivious to a bizarre creature only John can see. John tells David that the drug "Soy Sauce", given to him by Marley, causes him to slip in and out of the timeline and lets him perceive alternate dimensions. David then receives a call from John of the past.
As they drive off, David is accidentally stabbed by the syringe. The drug, which David notices is quivering like an organism, causes severe hallucination. An alien, Roger North, appears in the backseat, but retreats when David threatens him. Detective Lawrence Appleton takes John and David to the police station. As he is interrogated, David realizes that he can somehow predict Appleton's questions. Appleton reveals that John and White are the only survivors of a drug party at Marley's trailer. After being called out of the room, Appleton tells David that John has died and leaves. Arnie interrupts Dave's story, expressing his skepticism about the events. Dave then takes Arnie out to his car and shows him an empty cage in the back seat. When glimpsing at the cage from the corner of his eye, Arnie is able to see the same bizarre creature from John's apartment inside the cage. Dave convinces Arnie to listen to the rest of the story without his veil of skepticism clouding his judgement.
John telepathically talks to David, instructs him to escape and retrieve the Soy Sauce. In Marley's trailer, some of the drug forces itself into David, who falls unconscious. He wakes up to see Appleton preparing to burn down the trailer. Appleton tells David that John's body has disappeared, and that he believes evil things are happening because of the drug. Appleton shoots David, who survives by time-traveling and tampering with the round he was shot with. Bark, apparently controlled by John, drives David's car through the wall, allowing him to escape the burning trailer. In his house, David is subdued by a possessed White.
White kidnaps David, Fred, Amy, Bark and John, takes them to an abandoned mall and reveals a "ghost door". John manipulates White into going outside, where Appleton kills him. Appleton's body then explodes into a swarm of white flying insects, which enter Fred and possess him. David reluctantly kills Fred. Amy opens the ghost door with her phantom limb, then John and David go through it. They meet North and Albert Marconi, a celebrity psychic and exorcist. They have teamed up against Korrok, an evil organic supercomputer. Marconi gives David and John a bomb containing a hallucinogenic capable of crippling Korrok. The two step through a portal to an alternate Earth. Disciples of Korrok greet them and present a brutal utilitarian society under Korrok's merciless rule. The duo are brought before Korrok, who plans to devour them, absorb their knowledge to conquer their dimension. John activates the bomb, but fails to complete the sequence. Bark, who secretly follows them, successfully does, sacrificing himself.
Upon escaping, David and John meet Marconi and learn that Bark was meant to defeat Korrok all along. After biting Marley, the dog had Soy Sauce in his blood and became connected to Marconi and North. Amy becomes David's girlfriend. David and John begin working as exorcists and demon hunters. They occasionally request help from Marconi, who gave them his personal number.
When David concludes the story, Arnie decides to publish it, despite how it might harm his career. He recalls a story to David, which makes David realize that Arnie is only a figment of his imagination. The real Arnie was killed several days ago by people not wanting the story published. David reluctantly forces "Arnie" out of existence. During the end credits, David and John travel to another dimension and decline a request to save it.
- Chase Williamson as David Wong
- Rob Mayes as John Cheese
- Paul Giamatti as Arnie Blondestone
- Clancy Brown as Dr. Albert Marconi
- Glynn Turman as Detective Appleton
- Doug Jones as Roger North
- Daniel Roebuck as Largeman
- Jimmy Wong as Fred Chu
- Kevin Michael Richardson as Korrok (voice)
- Angus Scrimm as Father Shellnut
- Jonny Weston as Justin White / "Shitload"
- Fabianne Therese as Amy Sullivan
- Tai Bennett as Robert Marley / Bruce Matthews
- Allison Weissman as Shelly Morris
In 2007, Don Coscarelli optioned the film rights to the comedic horror novel John Dies at the End. 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."
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. This was confirmed after hints posted by Coscarelli on his Twitter page were verified. 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, for extensive visual FX work. The film premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival on January 23, 2012. Variety reported that the film was produced on a budget of less than seven figures.
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.'"
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."
In August 2012, Magnet Releasing announced that they had acquired the rights to the film. 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. It was released on DVD on April 2, 2013.
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." On Metacritic the film has a score of 53/100 based on 27 reviews, which indicates "mixed or average reviews".
A. O. Scott of The New York Times called it "a ridiculous, preposterous, sometimes maddening experience, but also kind of a blast." 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." Variety's Rob Nelson called it "a thoroughly unpredictable horror-comedy—and an immensely entertaining one, too." 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." James Berardinelli rated it 2/4 stars and called it an "interesting failure." Writing at NPR, Scott Tobias said that the film tries too hard to attract a cult following and relies on "calculated insanity". 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".
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