“John Dies at the End” has the spirit, if not always the laughs, of Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead” trilogy. Don Coscarelli, who has a nearly thirty plus-year career working on B-grade horror films like “The Beastmaster” and Bubba Ho-Tep,” has adapted David Wong’s 2004 comic-graphic novel into one messy, freaky, and mind-boggling ride of a movie.
Chase Williamson and Rob Mayes are Dave and John, two slacker buddies who take a drug named Soy Sauce at a rave and the next day both are being questioned for murder. That’s not their only problem. The drug is a mysterious black substance that screws with perception, allows for mindreading, makes for all sorts of inconsistencies in time, and opens a door to another dimension–did you get all that? Good, because I’m still not sure if I did.
This is the kind of movie that shouldn’t be so much followed (which is almost a near impossibility) as admired for its zaniness and hallucinogenic, ghostly, demonic pleasures. The imagery here is very strange (how about a monster made of meat, or Dave having to fight not just a cop’s severed arm but also his bat-like mustache), the horror is there (heads and eyeballs splatter) and every once in a while you get a good laugh out of it. The special effects are low-grade but for a B-movie that’s not unexpected. The one area where this could have been better is the ending, where all this craziness succumbs to exposition and then an anticlimatic conclusion.
Williamson is the only one in the cast not written one-dimensionally (which sucks for Paul Giamatti fans as he plays a reporter here) and he handles being the “straight man” surrounded by lunacy very well. But that lunacy is kind of the real star here and Coscarelli has done an excellent job of keeping that entertaining, almost, throughout “John dies at the end.”