John Dies at the End – Film Review + Analysis
October 20, 2015[ssba]
JD@TE came out a few years ago, I recently saw it again and I have to tell you, I found it quite moving. It’s also perfect for Halloween.
On the surface, it’s complete insanity! David and John absorb a fantastical substance (“soy sauce”), which bombards them with information and visions from all over the universe, then they’re recruited to save the world from a creature named Korrok. Yet, I think it’s really about David’s great capacity for love. You may have to take a dose of the “soy sauce” to follow me down this explanation, but you’ll live.
When David rushes over to John’s after the frantic phone call in the middle of the night, he has no concept of the soy sauce; he’s just genuinely concerned that his friend has OD. You get the feeling this is a familiar situation for him, how many times has he had to take John to the hospital? It moved me to be in David’s shoes for that moment, before the soy sauce part of the story unfolds. When John asks him on the phone in the police interrogation “Have I died, yet?” David pauses for a minute. It’s probably because that’s the strangest question you could be asked by someone, but I also think he feels guilty to admit that he let his friend die (even though his friend is speaking to him through the phone). Both actors, Chase Williamson and Rob Mayes are absolutely superb in their roles.
Parental: Arnie, Marconi, Detective Appleton
David is a foster child, throughout the film he finds these father figures; all 3 of these individuals are lonely souls, just like David. He likes having them around, even if they may be a danger to him. On a side note: if I heard Arnie’s voice over the phone and he was calling himself Arnie Blondestone, I would picture Paul Giamatti as well. Great actors!
It’s love at first sight when he sees Amy. Being a foster child, he doesn’t express himself very easily but he has a passion to do good. Fabianne Therese is such a skilled and unique presence.
Philanthropy: Soy Sauce
Stay with me on this one! Once the soy sauce gets into his system, David goes through a horrific ordeal. Once he comes out of it, he realizes he can use the soy sauce to save his friends (and the world). He is willing to sacrifice his mind and body for those he loves.
This is a strange film, but it truly puts you in David’s headspace. You’d think it was directed by a recent film school grad with how experimental it is, but that’s just the brilliance that is Don Coscarelli. I highly recommend another of his films: Bubba Ho-tep.
What I love about John Dies at the End
“It’s like the country music radio station. It’s out there, in the air… even if you don’t tune into it.”
- The title
- The opening question
- The actors
- The music
- The originality and creativity
- The dialogue
What I don’t love about it
Amy’s Character: Fabianne is an incredible actor; I just wish her part were written better. I don’t like how she is just there to support John the whole film. I do love how because Amy is David’s taste; his version of Shelly would look like Amy. I also love Amy’s “Ghost Door” solution, but I wanted more!
Korrok: Unfortunately, the film takes a nosedive once David and John enter the black portal and find themselves on the new planet. Painful exposition, disagreeable jokes, and slideshows… it just goes on and on. I wish they never went there, Korrok destroying the earth couldn’t be as bad as having to sit through the last section of the movie. Once they return, there’s a great scene with Arnie, but it’s too late.
I love John Dies at the End; even with any faults- it’s one of my favorite films. In addition to being about David’s great capacity for love, it’s also about altering your perception, which is always a healthy exercise.
I leave you with this question: Would none of this have happened if David just gave Robert the beer he owed him?