John Dies at the End by David Wong is one of my favorite books of all time. While I think it was surpassed by its spectacular sequel, This Book is Full of Spiders, Seriously Dude Don’t Touch It, there is something about John Dies at the End that makes it incredibly charming and a must read for anyone who likes the Internet. Perhaps it was the constant dick jokes and general insanity, but even with its odd pacing and somewhat jumbled narrative, it remains easily in my top 5 books of all time. When it was announced that it would be made into a movie I vehemently followed it, just chomping at the bit for it to be released.
John Dies at the End stars Chase Williamson and Rob Mayes as Dave and John, Paul Giamatti as Arnie Bloodstone and Clancy Brown as Dr. Albert Marconi and directed by Don Coscarelli, whose credits include Phantasm and Bubba Ho-Tep. A mysterious drug called “soy sauce” appears on the scene and does more than just get you high, it sends you across time and dimensions. Dave and John find that our world is under attack, but can the least qualified people in the world save it from annihilation?
As with any popular novel adaptation, what most people want to know is if the movie is a faithful adaptation of the book and I can honestly say yes, but with a colossal asterisk. John Dies at the End, the novel, was written as a web serial and then edited into a novel, which gives it that disjointed feel I mentioned. The movie cuts out pretty big portions of the narrative, but that isn’t a bad thing. Jennifer Lopez (no not that Jennifer Lopez) isn’t in the movie and they don’t go to Vegas, but the movie keeps the heart of the book completely intact.
Just as with the book, this movie is not without problems. The run time of a movie drastically reduces the amount of information you can cram in and at points some of that information seemed to get lost in the shuffle. At a certain point though, just as Dave and John do the entire movie, you wonder what the fuck is going on. There’s an amount of confusion at the core of the narrative and, while meaningful, doesn’t always work in its favor.
This is a low budget movie, but unlike most, the low-budgetness of it works completely in its favor. Soy sauce lets you see everything that exists in our world, but our minds can’t normally comprehend. The practical effects give everything this realistic, yet fake look that lends itself well to something you can barely comprehend. They also lend themselves well to the humor that is the lifeblood of this movie and that blood certainly flows throughout.
Even though I enjoy a lot of them, far too many movies follow expected formulas. It isn’t very often we get something as insane and quirky as John Dies at the End and it deserves to be respected for that. I love getting something different and that is exactly what was given to me here. This isn’t a movie that will change the playing field, but it will develop a cult following and I will happily be there.
I watched this movie with a friend who is also a huge fan of the novel and while we pointed out what they cut out from the book, we both agreed that this movie has distilled what the book is about into an incredible experience. If you want the exact novel on the screen, you will be disappointed, but if you just want a fantastic movie experience you will love it just as we did. I’m just afraid that the only people that will see this movie will be people who read the book and it’s a shame, because I love this movie.
In Theaters: January 25, 2013
Runtime: 1 hour 39 minutes
Rating: R (for bloody violence and gore, nudity, language and drug content)
Director: Don Coscarelli
Cast: Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Paul Giamatti, Clancy Brown
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Horror
Distributor: Magnet Releasing
Official Site: http://www.johndies.com/