John Dies At The End - DVD Review

'has not one but two false starts, both of which help set up the film’s story whilst at the same time having nothing to do with it... this is a film that is essentially going to do whatever it wants, however it wants'

Imagine John Carpenter and David Lynch teaming up to remake Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey and you’re in the right area for what John Dies At The End has to offer. Complete with arguably not one but two false starts, both of which help set up the film’s story whilst at the same time having nothing to do with it, director Don Coscarelli lets you know early on that this is a film that is essentially going to do whatever it wants, however it wants, for the next one hundred minutes.

As you might expect, such an insouciant approach produces a mix of results, some refreshingly satisfying, others bewildering misfires. The second of the aforementioned fake-outs, for example, leads you down an unforgivingly surreal path that culminates in one of the most bizarrely imaginative ideas you’re likely to see in a film for some time. And yet, as you get further and further into the primary narrative and realise that, imaginative as it may have been, that early sequence actually bears almost no consequence to the story John Dies At The End is actually concerned with telling, your frustration levels with the film’s erratic structure may begin to chip away at your overall satisfaction.

In fact, even when the main story is in full swing, writer and director Don Coscarelli can’t resist interrupting matters through unfocused tangents and surreal footnotes. The fact that events are being related to journalist Arnie Blondestone (Paul Giamatti) by David Wong (Chase Williamson), one of the film’s two main characters, allows for some wonderful exchanges between the two characters but also provides unnecessary distraction from the main story a little too often. The story itself is regularly tricky enough to follow without Coscarelli throwing in unnecessary - if entertaining - deviations.

For all its structural vexation, John Dies At The End provides plenty to like elsewhere. Coscarelli’s film manages more imagination, more originality and more cinematic ballsiness than many films with budgets countless times larger than that which has been spent here. The performances too are impressive, not only from the endlessly reliable and always welcome Giamatti - the biggest name here - but also from the many young relative unknowns that make up much of the cast. Williamson provides a likable and genuine presence for the film to hover around alongside Rob Mayes playing the titular John, who also does well in a role that you’ll wish had more screen time. Coscarelli’s script zings with sharp humour, only occasionally descending to juvenile jokes which feel somewhat out of place in amongst the intellect apparent in much of the comedy presented here.

It’s not a comprehensive success by any stretch, but John Dies At The End manages to keep the success to fail ratio tipped in the right direction and deserves a great deal of credit for attempting to create something genuinely different. Coscarelli’s film is an undeniable mine of invention and talent, even if the director only manages to effectively channel it into an experience that entertains only slightly more often than it frustrates.




John Dies At The End is released in the UK on DVD and Blu-ray on Monday 17th February 2014.


By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

No comments:

Post a comment