Review: John Dies at the End

Viktoriya Berezovskaya ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff

Chase Williamson in "John Dies at the End." Copyright © 2012 Green River Sales, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Chase Williamson in “John Dies at the End.” Copyright © 2012 Green River Sales, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Recently released into select theaters, John Dies at the End is an unapologetically weird indie flick both funny and disturbing. Based on a hit horror/humor novel of the same name by editor David Wong, the film is about people exploding, otherworldly evils, mind-shattering drugs and, the best part, it never makes any effort to be less than completely obscene and absurd.
David Wong (Chase Williamson), the author avatar main character, is just a guy trying to get along in life in a little Midwestern town when his alcoholic friend John (Rob Mayes) calls him in the middle of the night after a party. He’s raving about a sense-enhancing drug called Soy Sauce and the monster in his apartment that it enabled him to see. This is a drug that opened a portal to what seems like nothing short of hell. The sauce takes David and John on an adventure they never wanted and the viewer could never expect, filled with delightfully gory low-budget visuals, sarcasm and snark, and its own unique flavor of hilarity.
This is a movie that seems to borrow its disturbed aesthetic from Silent Hill and its easygoing-yet-audacious character from The Expendables. It’s gross, it’s creepy, it’s otherworldy and unimaginable as it shares with Silent Hill the deeply disturbing notion of a world going crazy around you, but with a much stronger sense of humor. Even more than its source material, the film never once endeavors to take itself seriously. The images, words and characters are all shocking, yet not one moment in the entire film feels fully realistic. The novel this film is based on was more ambitious in creating a true marriage of horror and comedy. Make no mistake: the movie is almost pure audacious comedy, made unique by the horrifying and deeply disturbed world that David Wong creates.
Because of obvious budget and time constraints, the setting, story, and characters are not half as deeply explored as I as a reader would have wanted. The most disturbing major plot twists, as well as the explanations given for the events in the story, are left out of the film entirely. And that’s more than understandable, because the novel is roughly 400 pages long, and reads more like a miniseries than a movie. John Dies at the End spends its entire length trying desperately to cram in the coolest and most ludicrous parts of its source material, and that’s why critics remember it as a movie with a meat monster. The meat monster is one of several elements that have no real bearing on the plot and could very well have been cut out in favor if some other, more plot-relevant scenes, but that was never the point of the film.
The fundamental creative choice that the film rests upon is the decision to capture the feel of the story, its absurdity and its humor as opposed to its plot and the bone-chilling horror that the absurdity brings out. That decision, while somewhat disappointing to those of us who read and loved the book, resulted in a film that has all the makings of a cult hit, with the character of a B movie and the lovable spirit of an indie film, this is a must-see, and more importantly, a must-support film, as its sheer individuality deserves credit, and will hopefully serve to encourage other unique cinema.

See it if: You loved the book, seek out weird and different films, or want a good, snarky laugh.
Don’t see it if: You can’t stand the sight of gore, really want to be scared, or are expecting a serious horror movie.

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