John Dies at the End (R)

Comedy 99 January 25th, 2013
By Nick Pinkerton
While based on a prose web serial by David Wong, the pseudonym of Jason Pargin, John Dies at the End feels remarkably like the work of a sensibility frozen at about 1996. Chase Williamson and Rob Mayes combat supernatural happenings only they can see in Anytown, USA, speaking in that sarcastic Kevin Smith/You Don’t Know Jack voice so ubiquitous in the ’90s, and share the smirking interplay usually reserved to eminently slappable, 20-something bros going through the drive-thru in fast-food commercials. The garrulousness and temporally shuffled narrative is off-the-rack Tarantino; the bizarro mind-benders, “Lynchian”; the horror-comic asides combining the mundane and the fantastic, “Raimi-esque”; the grab-bag borrowing of avant-garde techniques, straight-up Natural Born Killers. The CGI is close to what you would encounter in PC gaming during the Clinton administration, and a “Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)” spoofed “wigger” shows up and says “ganked,” which I am fairly certain is no longer in common parlance. I have concluded, then, that John Dies at the End is a product of a parallel universe where slacker flippancy never got old — and, oh, it is terrible. Wong’s stories snowballed in pageview popularity to the point of earning a proper publication by St. Martin’s Press — and now this. Gathering an audience through online word-of-mouth, Wong has created a genuine cult phenomenon. Writer-director Don Coscarelli’s film, however, groans with the strain of attempting to heave a cult object into being.
Don Coscarelli Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Paul Giamatti, Clancy Brown, Glynn Turman, Doug Jones, Daniel Roebuck, Fabianne Therese, Jonny Weston, Jimmy Wong Don Coscarelli, David Wong Brad Baruh, Don Coscarelli, Andy Meyers, Roman Perez Magnolia Pictures