John Dies at the End (2012)

I have no idea how to even start discussing this movie, other than to tell you that it’s all over the place narrative and insane concepts make it a film that seems created for a target audience of one — me.

Written and directed by Phantasm creator Don Coscarelli and based on the book by David Wong, this film feels nearly impenetrable and like the kind of movie that you need to be on soy sauce, the drug from the film, to comprehend.

Coscarelli found the story by accident. He says, “True story: I received an email from a robot on Amazon.com, and it told me if I liked the zombie book I just read, that I would like John Dies at the End. I read the little logline, and it was just amazingly strange. I thought, ‘Well this might even make a good movie.’ Plus, it had arguably the greatest title in motion picture history.”

The film begins with David Wong pondering whether an axe he has used to kill a skinhead who keeps coming back from the dead is the same axe because it has a new head every time. Immediately, you know that this film has no interest in slowing down or worrying if you’re not getting it.

David goes to meet Arnie Blondestone (Paul Giamatti, Private Parts), a reporter who wants to know about the strange events that make up David and his friend John’s lives. It turns out that awhile back, David saved his friend Amy’s dog, Bark Lee, after he bit a Jamaican drug dealer.

Later, John is given the soy sauce drug by that very same drug dealer. Soy sauce opens the mind to things no one else can see, as well putting whoever uses it into alternate realities. That’s proved right away when a past version of John begins calling Dave and guiding him. Then the syringe full of the drug bites Dave and sends him through a whole bunch of other timelines.

Soon, Detective Lawrence Appleton questions John and Dave, because everyone that was at the drug dealer’s house has either disappeared or died violently. The reporter says that everything is a lie at this point, but Dave shows him a monster that convinces him to stay.

What follows is an adventure that includes celebrity exorcist Albert Marconi who gives the boys an LSD bomb to stop Korrok, an ancient biological superintelligence that has become a god inside another reality that prefers to communicate via cartoons, as well as a side journey to a future where John and Dave are the messiahs that will free Earth from a deadly plague. However, our heroes want nothing to do with any of this, preferring to play basketball.

And what happens with that newspaper interview? Does John die at the end? Can a dog save reality? I really don’t want to spoil any of this for you.

I was completely entertained by this movie, but it’s one of those ones that I have trouble telling others about. There are long stretches of talky dialogue that demand that you pay attention to the film. This isn’t background noise, but something that demands to be experienced. For those looking for something original and willing to make the commitment, I can offer no higher recommendation.

Check it out streaming now on Shudder!

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