Sunday, January 27, 2013
John Dies at the End
Dave, played by Chase Williamson-- a handsome smart-alec whose like the slacker, indie-grunge version of Topher Grace-- is a strange young man, with an even stranger pastime/job, or whatever. Given the power the see dead things, move into various dimensions and given an astute awareness of things to come, mind reading, and various other supernatural-like abilities, all of which is accredited to a magical drug called "soy sauce" that chose him or whatsit, Dave is constantly at odds, but his ironic bent and merciless wit keep him, and the movie, from ever going to deep. Dave is trying to sell his story, or just merely tell it, or trying to rationalize it in the form of recanting the how of his gifts to journalist Arnie Blondestone (played by Paul Giamatti.) A flashback, a puzzlement and recurring nightmare, John Dies at the End pleads its case for eternal cult worship as the film shifts from clever readings to cheesy, tongue and check splatter violence to inventively low-brow effects. The problem lies in a story that fails to truly grasp anything much at all. We learn that Dave inherited his gifts and burdens from the titular John (Rob Mayes), a high school mate who got into "the sauce" after a meeting with a mysterious soothsayer. What leads in an intense recollection of some otherworldly gobbledegook of apocalyptic proportions, all of which staged with a smirky grin, and cast aside more often than not by nonsensical oddball tangents-- oh look, a dog driving a truck, or a bratwurst working as a mobile phone.
One could discredit John Dies at the End on storyboarding logic, but there's a few guilty pleasures that make the film, if not the eternal cult fantasy it wishes to be than a pleasurable and a mostly agreeable slight of hand. Williamson and Mayes are charming performers, and their off-kilter touches and clever line readings are, if nothing else, than nicely calibrated in such nonsense. Giamatti, who works as audience skeptic, works as nifty piece of stunt casting, giving a slight nudge of gravitas to a work of immense cheese, and finally, Coscrelli is certainly a cheerfully anarchic filmmaker, one with an inventive sense of play and mayhem, only needing a structure to refine it. There's a slight smidgeon of joy and chaos to the frantic sequences of madness, it just feels as thought John Dies at the End sputters out before it can reach the punchline. B-