John Dies at the End is finally available on VOD services and it arrives about a month before it releases in theaters. I like it when movies do that. I don’t always want to pay the ten dollars for the smaller flicks that pre-release on VOD, but I am happy to report Don Coscarelli’s adaptation of the David Wong novel is worth it.
For the most part.
Pointing out the flaws in a movie like this is like refusing to go to bed with Marilyn Monroe because she has a mole on her face. All the great genre classics are flawed, from Escape to New York to Evil Dead 2. After time the movies become better because of their flaws and I suspect John Dies at the End will be no different. So, the occasionally goofy special effects aside, this movie’s a crowd-pleaser for sure.
Coscarelli was the director who presumably broke out when he made the ultra-low budget Phantasm, a movie about a tall, demonic man whose bidding was done by dwarfs and sentient spheres of metal. It’s not a very watchable movie these days, but I still have a soft spot for some of its sequels, particularly the gore scenes. There’s some memorable stuff in there and, hey, who wouldn’t want a four-barrel shotgun? The series also introduced me to a little known actor by the name of Reggie Bannister, who’s apparently referred to as “The hardest working man in horror.” There’s just something charming about this guy. The reason it’s awesome to see him play a hero in movies is because it’s so damn unexpected to see someone like him in movies at all. Tom Cruise, eat your heart out.
Speaking of Phantasm, “The Tall Man” (Angus Scrimm) makes a cameo in John Dies at the End as a priest.
Not very long ago, Coscarelli made Bubba Ho-Tep, in which the real Elvis Presley (played by Bruce Campbell) switches places with an Elvis impersonator to escape the smothering aspects of fame and fortune. Naturally, it’s the impersonator who died while the real Elvis is old and dying in a nursing home with what he refers to as “a growth on my pecker.” His best friend is a black man (the late, great Ossie Davis) who thinks he’s JFK, but his skin has been dyed black by the CIA. At night, a mummy sneaks into the nursing home and slays the elderly, one by one. Only Elvis and the black JFK can stop it.
I mention Bubba Ho-Tep because that marks the beginning of Coscarelli’s transformation into the stylistic director he is today. I think it’s safe to say this guy isn’t making a ton of money. He’s making movies way better than they have to be because it’s obviously what he likes to do. Sometimes the ideas are better than the execution, but you try making a movie for a hundred thousand dollars or so.
John Dies at the End is even harder to summarize than Bubba Ho-Tep’s whacky plot. It’s about a couple of slackers who’re addicted to a drug that makes them see things from another dimension. There’s an alien subplot, too, and a sometimes confusing order of events. I’m still not exactly sure when one of the opening scenes took place. Damn it, there I go again pointing out the flaws.
Just watch the trailer. If that appeals to you, then so should the movie. I have to go now. My hot dog is ringing.