Movie Review: ‘John Dies at the End’
Starring: Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, and Paul Giamatti
Plot: 2 stoner buddies, Dave and John, find themselves unstuck in time and space after taking a new drug, nicknamed “Soy Sauce.”
Whoa, WHAAAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Spoiler alert.
No, but seriously, I can not stress enough how irrelevant the title of the movie is to the rest of the movie.
Dave (Chase Williamson) is a seemingly apathetic, energy-less 20-something slacker, but it starts out with him killing people with an ax. This ax gets damaged over time and as he replaces it with different pieces, he wonders if it is still the same ax. He has an ax because as we learn quickly, he is, along with his partner, John (Rob Mayes), a supernatural avenger (of sorts). Like Constantine or Cal MacDonald. This movie wastes no time getting into those weird minute details without ever really setting up the reality of the situation. Honestly, the movie’s actual plot hasn’t even really started yet.
Weird movies have a tough time. From the get go, you are alienated and confused, and that can be unsettling for the average movie goer. Meanwhile, the filmmakers are pushing boundaries hoping you actually feel that way so they can literally drive you mad with giddiness. Director Don Coscarelli has made it his trademark. You’d know him as the director behind Phantasm and Bubba Ho-Tep.
The story finally begins in a Chinese food restaurant where Dave is meeting with a journalist, Arnie Blondestone (Paul Giamatti). Arnie is asking him all these questions about being an exorcist and wondering about the mysterious drug, Soy Sauce. Giamatti kills it as Arnie. He reaches lawyer levels of sleazebag addressing each of Dave’s answers with huge amounts of cynicism. His animated contrast to Dave’s overwhelming apathy makes the conversation surprisingly awesome. This segment works as a framing device for the origin story of John and Dave.
The story starts out with John and Dave at a kegger where they meet a psychic Jamaican man. He deals John some black liquid that is meant to be injected. John calls it soy sauce and claims that you don’t choose the soy sauce, the soy sauce chooses you. Dave thinks he is delusional and near death so he tries to drive him to the hospital. Unfortunately, the syringe still full of soy sauce that was confiscated by Dave stabs him in the leg. He thinks he is hallucinating at first, but the layers of reality are literally peeling away. John pulls him through those layers into a different dimension where they are saviors that have to stop a doomsday plot.
About halfway through the movie, it becomes very difficult to describe. In fact, I probably failed so far at accurately describing how both weird and fun the movie is. This movie is just so damn weird. It is its greatest strength and biggest weakness. The best way to describe it is “the millennial version of Bill and Ted going on r-rated Alice in Wonderland/Wizard of Oz like adventures.”