Saturday, January 5, 2013

John Dies At The End (2012) : Please Pass The Soy Sauce!

Do you like dogs that can drive a car? Have you ever thought of using a bratwurst as a cell phone? Do you like basement monsters made of meat? (Yes, you heard me - and I'm not talking about Lady Gaga's meat dress, either!)
How about doorknobs that turn into penises before your very eyes? If you said yes to any of the above then by all means, you need to check out John Dies at the End. 

I've not read the source material - a novel by David Wong, so I was coming into this one rather blind.  Generally I like to read a book before seeing the film but in this case it was not to be.  Though I have looked at the book several times in the book stores.

But seeing as how it was adapted for the big screen by Don Coscarelli of Phantasm and Bubba Ho-Tep fame, I was definitely interested in seeing this so-called horror-fantasy-comedy.  And that is just what you get. At times feeling a little bit like a cross between a Hunter S. Thompson adaptation and a Sam Raimi movie, it really does jump all over the place - and kind of made me feel like perhaps it would have been more enjoyable if I were stoned out of my mind.
That's not to say that I didn't enjoy the movie.  It has its own weird charm. Kind of like an acid trip - if only I knew what that was actually like.  I get the feeling I was pretty close.

Meet Dave. 
Dave (Chase Williamson) is a likable twenty-something slacker who's got a tale to tell. 
Meet Arnie.
Arnie's (Paul Giamatti) just the guy to tell it.  These two meet up in a creepy, dark-lit Chinese restaurant to discuss recent events in Dave's life that are almost too insane to believe. Apparently there is a new type of street drug known as Soy Sauce, which causes wild hallucinations and the ability to not only talk to the dead but to be able to experience alternate universes & realities.

By using this "sauce", Dave is able to tell Arnie the amount of change he has in his pocket and the dream he had the night before.  When Arnie seems slightly more agreeable to listening to Dave's story, Dave relates how the night before, he met up with his friend John (Rob Mayes) at a party and they were introduced to a Jamaican named Robert Marley (seriously...) who was coincidentally bitten by their friend Amy's dog, Bark Lee.  Robert gives them some of the sauce and kabam!  Their whole world and their reason for being is completely changed. Well, they are still dudes who like to get laid and get high, but now they have the world to save!

The bulk of the film is Dave and John moving in and out of otherworldly dimensions, trying to come to terms with the weirdness that is their life and save the fucking day.  It all pans out in unbelievable moments and a shit-load of one liners and if I'm honest, confusing interludes. Absolutely nothing is as it seems. There are giant leeches, magic "ghost-doors", eyes popping out of their skulls like a Fulci film, demon possession, talking dogs, exploding heads, portals to other worlds, the aforementioned monster made of deli-meats, giant spider-crab creatures, a girl with a horrific-quality artificial arm/hand, and a weirdo tv paranormal expert (the excellent Clancy Brown).  The main villain (if we can call it that) is a conscious and responsive computer intent on destroying society in this dimension as we know it. Say whaaat?
Holy hell, we even get an Angus Scrimm (The Tall Man, for those who have led a Phantasm-less life) cameo. 

I do have to mention that it was fairly obvious that budget constraints really wreaked havoc on their ability to have decent CGI effects, but that said, the practical effects are quite good.  There was a lot going on in this movie - a whole lot of unique and interesting creatures and monsters - and the lack-luster CGI didn't harm the end product too much, if truth be told.  The acting was good - in particular by newcomer Williamson, who despite the bizarre premise and circumstances makes this freak-fest seem like a buddy film of the horror-friendly kind. Paul Giamatti (one of my very favorite actors) is not given a whole lot of screen time, but what he does have was wildly entertaining and very "him".  He's one of the producers of the film so he obviously had his heart and soul into his performance.

All in all, I doubt it's a film I'd want to watch over and over, as my kind of horror comedy leans a little closer to Shaun of the Dead than Bubba Ho-Tep, but I can understand how the word in genre circles seems to be that this film will gain cult status quickly. And I'm not sure they're wrong.  For everything I didn't understand, it was rectified with preposterously funny segments and ridiculous comedic moments. Which more than made up for the confusion that wracked my brain throughout most of the running time. Again I say, it may have been easier to swallow if I'd had several shots of Jim Beam prior to viewing. 
But give this one a chance - it would be fab on the big screen.
Opens Jan 25.

1 comment:

Marie said...

Wow, I'm very curious!!