Tuesday, 9 April 2013

MOVIE REVIEW: John Dies At the End

In the first five minutes, our hero, David Wong, tells us that he once saw a man's kidney grow ten nipples, tear itself out of a ragged hole on his back and go slapping across the kitchen floor.  But that's another story.  The fact that such things can be omitted from this imaginatively trippy voyage is testament to how phantasmagoric the following hour-and-a-half is going to be.  When we join him, David seems to have already grown accustomed to the other-worldly events occurring around him.  He has a story to tell and the full attention of reporter Arnie Blondestone, played by Paul Giamatti.  David presents a cynical front as he restrains his reactions to the mind-blowing developments at the start of his account.  His best friend is John, and this could essentially be described as a buddy-movie, aside from the realization that defining it is as so would not do it justice.

David comes to John's aid one night when he is suffering from the hallucinogenic effects of a drug called Soy Sauce.  The title of the movie proves not to be far from a spoiler when David starts to receive phone-calls from  John's beyond-the-grave future-self, whilst in John's presence.  Suffice to say, if you're looking for a linear story, forget about it.  What we are given is lingering yet snappy dialogue with jittery editing to accompany the frenetic situation that David falls into.  Soy Sauce, the drug, heightens David and John's abilities to the extent that they can anticipate the future, read minds, and even travel to alternate universes.  

Much of this movie is an experience requiring you to just strap in and go with the ride.  It is frequently unclear what is real and what is David's hallucination.  Glynn Turman, who you may remember among other things as Mayor Royce in The Wire,  sums up it up as stuff being real and not-real at the same time.  He believes Hell is the grease-trap of the Universe and we are not capable of perceiving what could be down there.  This movie tries to give us an idea.

Cue telepathic dogs driving cars before it is left to David to save the world from impending doom. Users of Soy Sauce  are being sent through time and other dimensions to return as something alien.  This all plays out straight-faced with a commitment to its surreally comic narrative, confident and self-assured to become a cult favorite.  A handful of reliable veterans support emerging young talent

By now, you should have decided whether John Dies At The End is going to be to your taste or not.  If you enjoyed the director Don Coscarelli's previous offerings, such as Bubba Ho-Tep or the Phantasm series, you should certainly give this a shot.  If you can already sense it's not for you, I'm glad that I've saved you the aggravation.

Tonally, its humor is comparable to Sam Raimi's Army of Darkness and features creatures the likes of which you would expect to find in a Cronenberg film.  But, to give it its due, this is an original genre-bending comedy that you should not expect to make sense.  Enjoy it for what it is and soak in the insanity as a handful of reliable veterans support the emerging young talent leading the way.  It boasts a fresh vibe that you would associate with an up-and-coming young filmmaker, not someone who's been making movies for over thirty years.