Saturday, May 4, 2013

Horror Film Review

John Dies at the End (2012):  Great title.  Bizarre movie.  If H.P. Lovecraft, William S. Burroughs, and George A. Romero sat together dropping acid, they might have come up with this story.  I heard about it last year and as with the Evil Dead remake, became excited.  But whereas ED more or less lived up to expectations, this one left me scratching my head. 

So, plot summary usually goes here.  I don't know how.  Why, you ask?  Because I've seen it and still haven't a clue as to how the chronology works.  Were our Everyman heroes Dave and John paranormal butt-kickers before or after the Soy Sauce incident?  Or was everything a flashback Dave told to Paul Giamatti's reporter character (who's an elderly black man who's, uh...dead).  No idea, and that bothers me.  I will soldier on, however, and explain it as I understood it. 

There's a new drug on the scene called Soy Sauce.  It's black and expands your mind to unbelievable extremes.  Problem is, it's actually alive.  An invading inter-dimensional parasite that uses the host and then kills it when it's no longer useful (kind of a zombie thing).  Buddies Dave (Chase Williamson) and John (Rob Mayes) are caught up in the initial craziness and become unlikely champions for our world.  John and Dave both take the Soy Sauce.  John does die, although not at the end, but comes back to team up with Dave and super famous paranormal researcher/motivational speaker Dr. Albert Marconi (Clancy Brown) in order to travel to a parallel dimension to kill Korrok, a Cthulu-like creature that's behind the parasitic invasion.  There's a bomb (of sorts) and a dog makes the ultimate sacrifice.  Was Korrok killed?  Maybe.  Either way, there's enough left over evil to keep Dave and John busy.  I think.

The film is narrated by Dave which should help clarify what's going on.  It doesn't.  The opening scene with him and the hatchets is very entertaining yet makes absolutely no contextual sense.  Also senseless is the pale skinny guy with the slugs (don't ask because I don't know).  The time travel bits are a little too Bill and Ted and while necessary for the climax, don't fit with the rest of the story.  And then there's the girl who explodes into a bunch of snakes, the monster made out of meat cuts from a freezer, and the door knob that morphs into a penis and testicles.  A little something for everyone.

The best part of this film, of course, is Paul Giamatti, who also executive produced.  The scene where Dave shows him the invisible creature in the cage is short but awesome.  A number of other scenes are equally cool, but unfortunately, unless you can weave them together into a cohesive whole, you're just going to end up with a mess.


Acting:  Williamson as Dave seems to be channeling Topher Grace half the time.  Mayes as John does the same but with Sean William Scott.  As I said, Giamatti as dead black reporter Arnie Blonestone is the real treat.
Story:  The basic idea is sound, but then they kept adding more weirdness that bogged it down to the point of incomprehension.
Direction:  I think proper direction may have saved a goodly portion of the film.  It can be done.  Just needed someone like Tarantino to pull it off.
Production Values:  The budget is unknown.  I suspect a few million since it does look pretty good.  No tell-tale low-budget crappiness. 
Gore/FX:  There are some gross bits, a few exploding heads and such.  Most of the CGI is decent enough (the penis and testicles was pretty lame, though).  My favorite FX has to be the meat monster. 
Scares:  Not really that kind of movie. 
Ending:  Dave and John shooting hoops...then getting sucked into another dimension where they're tasked to save the day.  Again.  Odd and not terribly satisfying.
Verdict:  Should you see John Dies at the End?  It's goofy and different and probably worth a look for the sheer novelty of it.  Just don't expect it to make a lick of sense.

Rating:  3 out of 5

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