"John Dies at the End" is a new horror-comedy film opening today, Feb. 8, 2013 at Landmark Theatres' Embarcadero Center Cinema in San Francisco, and Landmark’s California Theatre in Berkeley. Adapted from the novel by David Wong (pseudonym of Jason Pargin), "John Dies at the End" is written and directed by Don Coscarelli ("Bubba Ho-Tep", "Phantasm", "The Beastmaster") and stars Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Clancy Brown, Glynn Turman and Paul Giamatti. The film premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
After falling in love with the book, Don Coscarelli writes in the Foreword of the 2013 edition of the novel, "The challenge I now faced was how to distill 350 pages of inspired insanity into a 100-page screenplay that general audiences might comprehend."
Coscarelli achieves just that, taking the wit and quirkiness of the psychedelic, man vs. monsters epic and condensing it into a concise and thoroughly entertaining film. Diehard fans of the book may be disappointed to see some of its minor characters and situations merged together in the film, or the absence of certain over-the-top scenes. There's no mention of Las Vegas, for example. Uninitiated viewers, however, will be too busy laughing at the film's jokes and squirming at its gleefully revolting sight gags to notice any major flaws.
It isn't necessary to read the book before seeing the movie, but it is highly recommended for anyone interested in diving deeper into the story to read it at some point. The plot revolves around two unlikely heroes, David and John, who stumble across a mysterious and often deadly drug known as the Soy Sauce, which enables them to communicate with entities from a dark dimension.
David and John, joined by a dog and other allies, attempt to fight the forces of evil, injecting every ounce of dark humor and cynicism they can muster as they delve deeper into the depths of madness. Paul Giamatti plays Arnie, a journalist trying to get to the bottom of Wong's preposterously outlandish adventure tale, as Wong (portrayed by fresh drama school graduate Chase Williamson) narrates the gory details of his story at a little restaurant called They China Food.
In the novel, Wong writes, "... saving the world, that's Hollywood bullshit. The best I can do is save this little bit of the world, this little corner that me and this girl stand in."
Is he right?