starts with a wickedly macabre riddle.
Where it finishes is not so clear.
One would assume the title offers an obvious clue, but not necessarily. Those who require a rigorously logical
approach to the space-time continuum might be out to sea, but genre fans
looking for a wild trip will find in Don Coscarelli’s John Dies at the End (trailer here), which opens
tomorrow in New York.
on the novel by Jason Pargin published under the pen-name David Wong, JDATE (as it is cheekily abbreviated) follows
the story character David Wong has to tell reporter Arnie Blondestone, in a series
of rapid-fire flashbacks. He really does
not look like a Wong, but looks are frequently deceiving in this reality.
and his partner John are amateur exorcists approaching professional
status. Two years ago, they were exposed
to a drug known as Soy Sauce. This stuff
really opens up the doors of perception.
Now they can see beings from other dimensions and tell you what you
dreamed last night. Unfortunately, just
as Wong adjusts to the sauce, he learns his best friend has died. Shortly thereafter, John starts calling him,
first to apologize for all the drama and then to guide him through a series of
predicaments. Eventually, they reunite
to confront an imminent threat from another universe, on what appears to be the
Eyes Wide Shut world, with the help
of their powerful ally, Dr. Albert Marconi, who masquerades as a television
psychic. Or something like that. Then it becomes a bit complicated.
Bill & Ted were to stoner science
fiction, JDATE is to psychotropic genre
the original source novel, the film is
episodic in structure, madly hop-scotching back and forth across time and
planes of existence. The audience just
has to live in the moment of each segment, which are almost always outrageously
clever. Frankly, viewers really do not
care if the lads save the universe. They
will just want to see what comes next.
Wong and John, Chase Williamson and Rob Mayes are likable lugs, who treat the bedlam
with admirable seriousness, never winking at the camera. However, it is the supporting characters that
really enrich JDATE. Executive producer Paul Giamatti is kind of awesome
as Blondestone—a rather more complex role than it first appears. Likewise, Clancy Brown delivers pure genre
gold as Dr. Marconi. There’s also a dog,
Bark Lee, as himself, who deserves consideration for next year’s Golden Collar
Award, if they can keep it going that long.
There is even a brief appearance from Angus Scrimm, the cult favorite
from Coscarelli’s Phantasm.
energy and inventiveness are impressive. As eccentric as things get, the film never
feels forced or self-consciously hip. That
is the real trick. As a result, the rough
edges, apparently the result of budgetary limitations, can easily be
forgiven. In fact, they become part of
the charm. Highly recommended for fans
of over-the-top sci-fi-horror hybrids, John
Dies at the End opens tomorrow (2/1) in New York at the Landmark Sunshine,
with Coscarelli attending the Friday and Saturday night screenings.
Labels: Don Coscarelli, Horror Movies, Paul Giamatti, Sci-Fi films