DVD Review: John Dies at the End

STUDIO: Magnolia | DIRECTOR: | CAST: Rob Mayes, Chase Williamson, Paul Giamatti, Clancy Brown, Glynn Turman, Doug Jones
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 4/2/2013 | PRICE: DVD $26.98, Blu-ray $29.98
BONUSES: commentary, deleted scenes, featurettes, casting sessions, more
SPECS: R | 99 min. | Horror comedy | 1.78:1 widescreen | stereo

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio  | Video  | Overall

It’s no surprise that the horror-comedy John Dies at the End, the latest film from director Don Coscarelli (Phantasm, Bubba Ho-Tep), is off-the-wall and gruesome. What may be a surprise is how off-the-wall and gruesome it is.

John Dies at the End

Chase Williamson gets forked up in John Dies at the End.

Think David Cronenberg (Naked Lunch) grossness crossed with Evil Dead-era Sam Raimi hyperactivity. The time-shifting story adapted from Jason Pargin’s novel (which was first published online as a webserial in 2001) centers on David Wong (Chase Masterson, TV’s Never Fade Away) recounting a bizarre story to a journalist (Paul Giamatti, (Win Win), in a Chinese restaurant. The story concerns David’s adventures with friend John (Rob Mayes, TV’s The Client List) in dealing with a mind-altering drug called “Soy Sauce” that appears to have arrived from a different dimension and which has the ability to turn body parts into icky, insect-like creatures.

…or something like that. The plot of John Dies At The End is practically incomprehensible, as it zig-zags between time and truth and falsehoods, while parading a plethora of repellent Naked Lunch-inspired creations across the screen. .

Luckily, Coscarelli has the chops to take the “ick factor” to high levels on what appears to be a small budget, and he gets fine supporting turns from Giamatti, Glynn Turman (Super 8) and Doug Jones (Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life). While the whole enterprise doesn’t add up to much other than an unpredictable freak show, Cosacarelli’s film may prove to be the cult item of the years.

The bonus features on the DVD, which include a commentary track and deleted scenes, were unavailable for review at press time


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About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.