John Dies At The End – Don Coscarelli – 2012

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Don Coscarelli is one of the world’s great independent filmmakers. I stress the word GREAT. Not good, not working, but a great genre filmmaker who is working at the very top of his game. We’re talking about a guy who’s first couple of films, (with apologies to Kenny and Co.), were Phantasm and The Beastmaster. His last pair of films, Bubba Ho-Tep and most recently John Dies At The End are no less classic than his early work, and may even go on to be more greatly revered over time.

What all these films have in common is a great pair of heroes, (with the animal kingdom the #2 of the Beastmaster), Coscarelli is a master of character interplay. John and Dave in JDATE are the best of friends, and theirs the kind of easy, effortless interplay that one recognizes from close friendships. These guys are funny and cool, and you want to know them. The film is framed in a kind of anti-linear fashion with Dave giving Paul Giamatti an interview as the glue. We cut back and forth and all around. In a film about inter-dimensional demons and rifts, time, life and death all have very loose meanings.

The film is both hilarious and perfectly crafted. It is so great to have a guy with as steady a hand as Coscarelli handle material that is so delicately absurd. It is more or less the equivalent of getting Terry Gilliam to have made Good Omens so many years ago. It’s a comedy about the end of the world. That’s JDATE to a T.

People take a drug called Soy Sauce to get a sweet out of body experience not unlike that of DMT. But some when they return from said trip are no longer human. These creeps are invading our world one bug at a time and making way for something much bigger. The film at once is Lovecraft and John Carpenter, while also being a little Mark Twain and Chuck Jones.

The film, and stories treatment of audience expectations, starting with the declarative title, makes room for the impossible and it delivers. Mind bending plot point after another, the film dares you to guess what’s coming next. I laughed, I cried, I fell in love. This film is as classic as they come. A throwback to a paranoid era where you could only look the apocalypse in the eye and laugh in its face as it shot toward you.

I love that Coscarelli works outside the system. Hollywood would never make this film. It reminds me a lot of They Live and reflecting the sick reptilian interior of the ruling classes. And Dr. Albert Marconi is exactly the type of mentor the warriors of a new generation needs.

The film leaves you on a note begging for the next chapter of the story, and the book, “This Book Is Full Of Spiders”, exists but I have not read it. I’ll see it after Coscarelli turns it into a movie. Go see John Dies At The End if you see only one movie this year. You won’t be disappointed unless you are an inter-dimensional interloper, in which case, fuck you.

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