A couple of different things occurred to me while watch John Coscarelli’s latest film JOHN DIES AT THE END- do I really like what I’m watching here and is it actually happening. Those thoughts are tied largely to the fact that as I was watching the film I was either in excruciating pain from a dental issue I was in the midst of or enjoying the ups and downs of pain meds to help relieve the pain of said dental issue. One thing I’m certain of is that JOHN DIES AT THE END is one hell of a mind trip that may or may not be completely brilliant or completely demented- of course one is not mutually exclusive to the other. Honestly, when it ended I wasn’t entirely sure if I’d watched a movie or if I’d just hallucinated something inconceivable yet kind of awesome.
I’m not sure there’s even a way to adequately describe the plot to JOHN DIES AT THE END, or even spoil it in any significant way. Essentially the film is a trip into someone’s insane acid trip where there are creatures from another dimension lurking around every corner, doorknobs that turn into penises, bratwursts that double as a phone and any number of other trippy phenomena. If I were to take a stab at actually explaining the plot all I can confidently say is two friends discover a drug called Soy Sauce that gives them the ability to cross between dimensions and have to stop the creatures from then crossing into ours- at least that’s all I can decipher without thinking myself into a coma.
When it comes down to quality, I can’t say that there’s anything I don’t really like about the film, except to say that I had a hard time actually enjoying it given any pain I may have been in at select moments while watching it. The special effects themselves are not that great, but it lends to the cult classic feel that it seems to intentionally be reaching for. This is nowhere near your typical mainstream yarn and is aimed almost entirely towards people who think outside the box; enjoy quirky horror comedies and people who enjoy their recreational drugs.
The film doesn’t take itself seriously to the point that rating it on performances is almost pointless. I will say that the two leads are hilarious and easily carry the film from beginning to end. The script is so batshit crazy and all over the place that you barely have time to decipher a lot of what’s happening moment by moment. The majority of this film is what I imagine the mind of someone high on acid perceives on a regular basis- this is the kind of stuff potheads can only have nightmares about.
If using drug references to describe JOHN DIES AT THE END make you uncomfortable or are completely unrelatable then the only easy thing to say is this movie may not be for you. I’m not saying you have to be a drug addict to get entertainment out of this- since I enjoyed it and am not a user- but having awareness and a sense of humor about it certainly helps. Yet I can’t shake the feeling that as much as I enjoyed a good majority of the film that in the end it still sort of felt like some horrible fever dream. That doesn’t mean it is terrible, just that it is so completely random and crazy that as a whole JOHN DIES AT THE END is a sometimes confusing and overwhelming bit of filmmaking.
There remains one key and undeniable thing about JOHN DIES AT THE END that even if you don’t like the film that much I think you can’t help but at least tell people that it’s really quite fun. You may not connect with the film’s sense of humor, but the randomness of the sequences is so bizarre that you still can’t help but at least chuckle at the absurdity. Lastly, you may not have a single clue as to what the hell you just watched, but you won’t be able to help telling someone about it without explaining at least one thing that makes them kind of want to see it. There’s brilliance to the very idea of this film and because it is so loaded with crazy visuals and jokes its replay value goes through the roof- though that doesn’t mean you’ll understand it any better. JOHN DIES AT THE END carries a cross that few films ever dare, by appealing to a very slim audience yet having the goods to make it survive for years to come as a tremendously enjoyable cult midnight movie.
Written By: Luke (@CrummyLuke on Twitter)