Directed by Don Coscarelli
I’ve been wanting to see this movie since I first heard of it online and saw the trailer. Plus Paul Giamatti is in it and he is golden is almost every film he has been in. When I found out it was based on a book I decided to read it first then watch it. The novel was written by David Wong (which is actually a pen name of the editor in chief of Cracked, which should give you a hint to the humor you can expect). It follows David and his best friend John and their life/adventures after taking a mysterious drug named Soy Sauce.
What first attracted me to the novel was its “plot description” which was incredibly enigmatic and well, weird.
You should not have touched this book with your bare hands.
NO, don’t put it down. It’s too late.
They’re watching you.
My name is David Wong. My best friend is John. Those names are fake. You might want to change yours.
You may not want to know about the things you’ll read on these pages, about the sauce, about Korrok, about the invasion, and the future. But it’s too late. You touched the book. You’re in the game. You’re under the eye.
The only defense is knowledge. You need to read this book, to the end. Even the part with the bratwurst. Why? You just have to trust me.
The important thing is this:
The drug is called Soy Sauce and it gives users a window into another dimension.
John and I never had the chance to say no.
You still do.
Unfortunately for us, if you make the right choice, we’ll have a much harder time explaining how to fight off the otherworldly invasion currently threatening to enslave humanity. I’m sorry to have involved you in this, I really am. But as you read about these terrible events and the very dark epoch the world is about to enter as a result, it is crucial you keep one thing in mind:
None of this is was my fault.
The book itself is relatively long at a little under 500 pages and is written as if someone is literally sitting in front of you telling you a story. That is because the story starts out with the narrator, David, telling his story to Arnie, a reporter and therefore the audience. It is often incoherent, David gets distracted during the storytelling, is proven to be an unreliable narrator and lacks traditional prose. However, it is VERY enticing albeit a little tedious at times. The book itself is broken up into three major incidents titled as separate books all together in the binding of this novel. With the framing device of David recounting the story to a reporter who wants to write a feature about David and John.
10/10 would read again.
The film adaptation started out promising in terms of following the novel. It was dead on for the first 20 minutes or so. The first deviation readers will notice is that several major characters have been dropped in order to streamline the plot. Also they combined the three major incidents in the novel to create one story in the movie. At first I was a little bummed when I realized they had done this but you can’t expect to much when adapting such a long novel. Other fans may be a bit peeved at first as well, but continuing the movie, the director made a great effort to keep the tone of the novel consistent despite cutting stuff out. Also, all but a few of the major parts of the novel were there and that alone would please any fan.
I had never heard or seen the two main actors in the film, Chase Williamson as David Wong, and Rob Mayes as John Cheese. But I was optimistic after I saw the trailer. Williamson perfectly delivers the deadpan wit and ambivalence that David exudes through every inner dialogue and interaction with John. Mayes picked up the adventurous and eccentric slacker act of John without missing a beat and pulled off a flawless foil for David. Through their interactions, even without reading the book, you can see why the two characters are best friends.
The character of Amy was more one-dimensional than I would have liked. In the novel, she is a shy timid girl, with bright red hair, that is prone to vomiting. Her weird behavior is mostly explained as being side effects of the drugs for her missing hand. She is smart and bright and just as adventurous as John and Dave. However, in the movie, she was just another character with few lines, no characterization and she didn’t even have red hair. I feel like they missed a mark with her and a chance to bring a more dynamic tone to the trio.
Paul Giamatti OWNED his character of Arnie Blondestone. From the moment he sits down with David, he pulls off the skepticism yet interested nature of a journalist covering a supernatural tale. Once his fate is revealed at the end, you can feel the fear in his eyes, in his tone, and in his actions. Giamatti knows how to take a secondary character and make it more believable and more realistic than the writing presents. He is also the only “big name” celebrity in the flick and would be the biggest draw for anyone looking to watch this independent film.
Overall, given the small budget and independent nature of this film, it looked amazing. The effects were good enough to not be distracting, the acting was superb, and the overall look of the film felt like it was a wide release film. The film utilized one of my favorite techniques of color changing in the scenes which helps propel the story forward without leaving the audience behind emotionally. The restaurant aka “present day” is all oranges/yellows with very saturated colors which gives off a comforting albeit a bit unsettling feeling. The lighting during the storytelling parts are often subdued with de-saturated colors, or bleak with dark shadows giving the audience a sense of foreboding or that danger is always around the corner.
If you like ridiculous, hilarious, suspenseful, and all together weird horror movies that will seriously make you laugh, John Dies At The End is the perfect film for you. It’s great as a standalone movie or as a companion to the novel. Take a moment to enjoy it, you won’t regret it but more likely it will make you want to read the novels and continue the story of John and Dave.
Spoiler Alert: John doesn’t actually die at the end.