John Dies at the End (2012), possibly the weirdest movie of 2012
MY CALL: If you enjoy weird, random, funny, sci-fi, grossout-y stuff, then this odd film is probably for you. IF YOU LIKE THIS WATCH: Here are a few movies that share some of the qualities of this. The Watch (2012; zany aliens), Donnie Darko (2001; uber-psychological cosmic trippy weirdness), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998; trippy), The Salton Sea (2002; trippy at times).
First, a disclaimer: I have not read the fan-favorite book by David Wong. I didn’t even know there was a book until after seeing this film. It seems that a lot of reviewers who were fans of the book were disappointed by this movie “as an adaptation.” However, being ignorant of the book, I thought the movie was fine…
Meet Dave, a weird guy who meets weird people in weird places.
Two well-cast young actors performed fantastically as our protagonists John and Dave, who have some very strange talents in David Wong’s adapted story. They’re clairvoyant…among other things…sort of…it’s hard to explain. A new street drug called “soy sauce” opens doors to other dimensions and melds time…no, not just by your perception, but ACTUALLY…but only when someone is doing the drug….wait…does this make sense? Long story short, this makes for some weird shit. The sauce is what grants John and Dave their seemingly prophetic psychic talents which include communicating with the dead and a knowledge of the unknowable.
Dave and John.
This movie is like an American, softer-R version of Tokyo Gore Shock (e.g., Tokyo Gore Police, Dead Sushi). Lots of weird, gross, inappropriate things happen all over the place. A door handle transmutes into a penis and testicles, a bunch of meat from a freezer assembles like Voltron into a meat monster, a woman randomly turns into a bunch of snakes…
We also get vomit, weird gross mutant monsters, flying mustache-bats, dismemberment, cartoon gore and weird slug monsters (even better than the killer slugs from Slugs). I was especially fond of “the bratwurst scene.” It’s understated and brief, but hilarious and brilliant. There’s a lot of stuff like that in this film.
“Hello…? Must be a bad connection.”
Very much unlike Tokyo Gore Shock movies, this film actually had some clever writing and was entertaining when weird special effects weren’t driving the scenes. There didn’t seem to be much in the way of character development, but the actors did very well with what they were given. The story also seemed to get a little bit shaky and forced in the last 20-30 minutes. It felt like they were trying to shoehorn too many subplot resolutions into one movie ending. But I enjoyed it anyway. Paul Giamatti (Win Win, Rock of Ages) was great as Arnie, skeptical of Dave’s psychedelic (or psychotic) claims. But after a little convincing things get interesting.
Cameos include the very strange Roger North (Doug Jones; The Watch, Hellboy), who tries to orient Dave to the madness of the merging dimensions. Speaking of madness, Clancy Brown (Green Lantern, Cowboys and Aliens) makes a totally random cameo as a zany mentalist.
This is one of those movies that starts out weird, as things are explained it somehow gets weirder, and then it gets weirder still! It’s sort of like a rated R, semi-serious version of Dude Where’s My Car (2000) with some quasi-Cthulu elements.
If you enjoy weird, random, funny, sci-fi, grossout-y stuff, then this odd film is probably for you. I was intentionally unrevealing about this film because there is a lot that could be ruined by spoilers. So, if you feel uninformed, just know I did it for you.