"John Dies at the End" begins with a clever philosophical puzzle. Not long after, a reporter, Arnie Blondestone (Paul Giamatti, also a producer of the film), tells the narrator, David Wong (Chase Williamson), "I thought you wanted to get the truth out. Your side of it."
Don't let that fool you, though. "John Dies at the End" is not a deep, existential drama. It's a lot more fun than that.
Directed by Don Coscarelli, who made the cult horror flick "Bubba Ho-Tep," based on the comedy-horror novel by David Wong, an editor at humor website Cracked.com, "John Dies at the End" seems destined to become a cult classic. There's something in it for everybody -- everybody who likes the kind of things that become cult classics, that is. Think of this movie as a mash-up of Philip K. Dick, Hunter S. Thompson, H.P. Lovecraft, David Lynch, Quentin Tarantino ... and much else besides. With a little "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" thrown in for laughs.
First, let's get this straight. Like the man of the same name who created him, David Wong is not Asian; it's a pseudonym. He doesn't want to be found, and he learned that "Wong" is the most common last name in the world.
|'John Dies at the End'|
|» Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars|
|» Starring: Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Paul Giamatti|
|» Director: Don Coscarelli|
|» Rated: R for bloody violence and gore, nudity, language and drug content|
|» Running time: 99 minutes|
He explains this to Arnie, to whom he tells his strange story in flashback. He begins with his origins. He never met his real father. "You could be my dad, for all I know," Dave says, and then pauses meaningfully. "Are you my dad?"
Arnie isn't. But, skeptical though he is, he proves a good listener and capable recorder of Dave and John's wild ride. The pair run a sort of other-worldly extermination business. (Given the creepy-crawly creatures here, let's add William S. Burroughs to the mix.) A drug known as soy sauce gives its users some formidable skills. "I'm not a genius," Dave says, unnecessarily. "I'm not a psychic, either." His ability to tell Arnie about the weird dream the reporter had a night before is just a "side effect" of the soy sauce.
Soy sauce also allows access to that other world, which is where his friend and business partner John (Rob Mayes) has disappeared. You might think the title of this film means it doesn't contain any tension. You'd be wrong, of course. There's plenty of suspense -- and witty laughs, too. There are also plenty of crude laughs. This is a film for the young and the young at heart. And those who like their philosophy laden with a heavy dose of paranoia and oddity.