John Dies at the End [Blu-Ray] Don Coscarelli

John Dies at the End [Blu-Ray] Don Coscarelli
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Crackling with irreverent, surrealist humour and insidiously oozing creative absurdities that congeal to flip a rotting middle finger to mindless consumerism, John Dies at the End is quite possibly the best film of Don Coscarelli's career. This is in no small part thanks to the feverish, maniacal whimsy of David Wong's book. That page-turning tome of crazy is loaded with enough nutty, misanthropic imagination to fuel a mini-series. And herein lays the movie's greatest problem: in trying to cram as much as possible into a feature-length film, significant character development is sacrificed in the service of wacky plot points per scene. Forced to turn in a work of reasonable length for a challenging psychedelic opus involving sentient drugs, alternate dimensions and all manner of supernatural hi-jinx, Coscarelli chose to reverently translate the highly entertaining superficial plot of Wong's story. As such, the film plays like an especially warped R-rated episode of Supernatural or a hybrid of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure and Requiem for a Dream. Effectively using the framing device from the novel, the story takes place primarily in (possibly) exaggerated flashbacks: a sceptical reporter (Paul Giamatti) patiently sits through the ludicrous conspiracy theory-laced story David Wong (the author's avatar, ably played by newcomer Chase Williamson) relates to him in a diner. As the paranoid narrator spews out a wild tale of meat monsters and interdimensional insects infiltrating the human race via a freaky drug referred to as "Soy Sauce," the slovenly journalist is forced to face some frightening truths about the nature of reality. While Coscarelli does a great job with the bizarre creature designs and campy psychedelic special effects on such a limited budget, the nightmarish imagery would have benefited from additional funding to create more practical set environments — many of the green screen shots look far too obvious. More egregiously, the story's lone female role is pretty much reduced to that of a human key. Though not sexualized, Amy is merely an object; we get no sense of who she is or why she'd be involved with Wong. In the special features, a set of deleted scenes reveal that Coscarelli had no intention of trying to squeeze in more of the romance angle, or Wong's primary identity crisis — the scenes that didn't make the final cut are mostly additional bits of dialogue directly from the book that flesh out Wong's caustic worldview. A regular "Making Of," a creature featurette and Fangoria interview with Giamatti should please hardcore fans, while the commentary track with the director, a producer and the two leads is quite entertaining, largely thanks to Coscarelli's humble honesty and a number of interesting on-set anecdotes. Oh and there's also a pretty nifty trailer for the sequel novel, This Book is Full of Spiders. Despite its shortcomings, John Dies at the End is marked with the kind of joyful mad originality that creates cult classics. (Anchor Bay)