JOHN DIES AT THE END **** USA 2013 99 mins
Although lacking the emotional resonance of BUBBA HO-TEP and the eerie mood of PHANTASM, Don Coscarelli’s trippy adaptation of David Wong’s cult novel is another unique addition to his diverse filmography. Rife with surrealistic images (literal door knobs, skittering giant insects, a bat-like moustache, turkey-headed creatures), it follows the misadventures of a pair of college drop outs who become “spiritual exorcists” to combat the threat of a new street drug dubbed “Soy Sauce” which offers the ultimate out of body experience. Along the way they meet evil-fighting infomercial celebrity Clancy Brown, beautiful amputee Fabianne Therese and the gaunt Doug Jones musing on everything from bees to shoes with tearful exuberance (“I observed a man who masturbated til he bled…did he want to do that?” he ponders). Great cult casting gives this sometimes too-cool movie much of its heart and soul : Glynn Turman is the perfect choice to deliver Hell-based exposition, Coscarelli lucky charm Angus Scrimm is a priest and Paul Giamatti is a great audience surrogate as the sap stuck listening to the hero’s outlandish story. It misses out on the charm of BUBBA HO TEP, but it’s constantly engaging and unpredictable, with more wild ideas and striking visual gags than your average 12 movies put together.
Review by Steven West