John Dies at the End (2012)
July 29, 2014 10:09 PM - Subscribe

A new street drug that sends its users across time and dimensions has one drawback: some people return as no longer human. Can two college dropouts save humankind from this silent, otherworldly invasion?

This film is pick #7 in the MeFi Horror Club.
posted by DirtyOldTown (23 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I loved the first half of this movie.
posted by destructive cactus at 10:48 PM on July 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

I enjoyed it in the vein of the-writers-were-high-on-some-nextgen-shit. It felt like an homage to The Evil Dead and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.

The bit with the door and that girl's hand was cool and funny and John didn't die at the "end." So, false advertising?
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 5:09 AM on July 30, 2014

The fate of people of color in horror movies apparently being the kind of thing you can never stop noticing once you notice it as a tiresome cliché:
In credits order:
White man: lives
White man: lives
Black man imagined as a white man: dies
White man: lives
Black man: dies
White man: lives
White man: dies
White woman: lives
White man: dies
Asian-American man: dies
Black man: dies

I haven't gone through the entire cast list, and have no desire to; it's just the kind of thing that remains an annoyance when watching horror movies.

Hollywood films with LGBT characters eventually moved past the "obligatory tragic ending" phase; I look forward to when horror movies move past their own retrograde fixations.
posted by johnofjack at 6:09 AM on July 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

I loved the first half of this movie.

The book was much the same way. As soon as they got to the mall, I felt like it turned into someone telling you about this awesome video game level he played. The movie was better, but not enough.

Coscarelli's FX (especially the meat monster) were a real distraction -- I guess we've moved beyond the point where I can ignore the cheesiness, given how easy it is to CG up something better.
posted by Etrigan at 8:54 AM on July 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

When I first saw the movie, I was sick with the flu and I thought my inability to "get it" was because I was sick. Then I watched it again when I was well and was left with "meh."
posted by miss-lapin at 9:14 AM on July 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think this essentially plays as two movies, back-to-back. The first is a loopy horror comedy about two guys who end up wrapped up in the hot mess that is "soy sauce." This movie is slight, but ceaselessly funny and packed with a lot of moments of trippy, but funny freshman dorm philosophizin'. The second movie is a smartass slacker take on Lovecraftian horror. It is altogether less successful, but it's not so bad that horror comedy nerds (like me) lose the entire bloom off of the more successful first half.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:18 AM on July 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

In any case, this is easily the most quotable horror movie of the last three to five years, IMO.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:26 AM on July 30, 2014

I laughed a lot -- a lot -- and yes, the story doesn't really hang together, which is too bad as that's probably the only thing between it and perennial cult status, but? I laughed a lot. I haven't read the novel, but I had the sense some stuff may have been lost in translation; I had little sense of David's relationship with Amy, or of Amy as a character, and I felt like we skipread about a hundred pages between the van and the mall. Oh, well. While not as good as either one, to me this was a little like a hybrid of Scott Pilgrim and Army of Darkness, and you won't catch me badmouthing something like that.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:11 PM on July 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

I had little sense of David's relationship with Amy, or of Amy as a character

Amy figured much bigger in the book, as did Dr. Marconi (there was a big setpiece in Vegas that was clearly beyond the budget). Oh, and there was a bit featuring Fred Chu that was much more in keeping with the first half of the movie that they chopped out because it was crazy.
posted by Etrigan at 4:18 PM on July 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

There's a lot of really good, really fun stuff in the book that just wasn't going to make the film, not least because trying to get the entire book in the film would've involved making it two hours long and still feeling rushed and underdeveloped or six hours long.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:41 PM on July 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

I was sitting somewhere reading this book and it just kind of slid out of my hands at around the halfway point. Presumably it is still wherever it fell.
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:22 PM on July 30, 2014

Oh, also! If you liked the movie at all, I quite strongly recommend the book. The sequel, This Book is Full of Spiders (Seriously, Dude, Don't Touch It), is also quite good.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:23 PM on July 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

So, so, so in agreement with the "first part is good, second not" opinions. I really got into the first part, and thought this could get really interesting. Then they got to the mall, and there was TV SciFi series level "alternate dimensions that look like the countryside outside of LA" and horrible, horrible CGI sentient computer VFX, and it just fell off the hinges completely.

I did like the Shitload parasite thing, though, that was a nice real cosmic horror touch, and about the only thing in the movie that was actually scary (at least in principle). It's like a hyper-smart, fast spreading zombie infection.

I have the book, but haven't read it. I'm a little unsure whether the movie made me more or less likely to put it in my reading queue.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:15 AM on July 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

David Cronenberg's Dude Where's My Car? (They were their car all along.)

I like this movie for what it was. The dark humor and sense of fun redeem its problems. And yes it's pretty low budget.
posted by fleacircus at 12:12 PM on July 31, 2014 [11 favorites]

fleacircus: "David Cronenberg's Dude Where's My Car? (They were their car all along.)"

This comments wins everything (in all possible alternate dimensions).
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 12:15 PM on July 31, 2014 [4 favorites]

Linked up mine and griphus' podcast about this in the recap widget thing, but per what we talk about in that, a big part of this movie for me was looking at it right next to Coscarelli's earlier work on Phantasm; things about the direction and design in the film that were more of a out-of-nowhere "whaaat?" for me when I first saw the movie felt a lot more in focus as distinctly Coscarellian touches after having recently watched and chattered about Phantasm. Even working with someone else's source material, the guy has his directorial wonts and it was actually kinda fascinating to look at two different films decades apart and under different circumstances and see his fingerprints smearing from one to another.

Coscarelli stuff aside, though, I warmed up to it some on my second watch (and found at least some answers to what were lingering questions from the first viewing) but am not ultimately totally on board with it because, yeah, it feels like it makes promises and then fails to deliver, but the failure to deliver isn't an interesting or subversive thing so much as just kind of a thud. Like part of me is interested to know more about the guys and the world they're in, but an equally vocal part of me really doesn't believe the answer is going to be satisfying and wants to just walk away.

It's a movie that feels like it's a moderately lucid stoned smart dude who has mistaken himself for an incredibly lucid stoned genius.

Also, there should have been a lot more Clancy Brown. Just on principle. Clancy fuckin' Brown.
posted by cortex at 6:30 PM on July 31, 2014 [6 favorites]

Man, that "I have so many questions about this world, but I suspect I'd hate the answers" feeling is so common when watching movies (or reading stories, or whatever) with fantastic elements. It's like a scab you really want to pick at. And for the stories, that balance is hard to get right, too.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 7:26 PM on July 31, 2014

Having just finished the book, it struck me that one of the movie's fatal flaws is that the lead actor is kind of a charisma black hole. He's reasonably close to book's unaffected slacker persona, but without getting the funny bits from his narration you lose a great deal of his charm. There's also not really enough characterization of John or Amy, so it's a bit tough to care about them.

The movie is very faithful to the book, despite leaving out vast swaths of story, and not always to its benefit. A lot of the dialog is just about verbatim.
posted by whir at 9:35 PM on July 31, 2014

90% of movies disappoint me on some level because the first half makes tons of promises, then the second half narrows itself int into one specific conflict, one specific place, one specific thing that it's going to be about. And quite often I liked the stuff in my mind a lot better than what they put on screen.

For example Gravity, where the first half/25% I'm, "YES", and the second half/75% I'm: "If this is really what you're doing, you can just wrap it up. Wait.. maybe you are going to veer off this through-line here?.... Ugh, of course not, you made it more unbearable."

Oddly, I didn't get so much of that disappointment feeling from JDatE. Some of it is that the meta tone (and jerky drug bro characters) creating detachment that helped manage expectations. But it's probably more just that I read the book, and so the movie was a different experience, as in any case where you read the book before seeing the movie. (Except not for World War Z which had nothing to do with the book at all.)
posted by fleacircus at 10:15 AM on August 1, 2014

World War Z was at best tangentially related to the book (both examine world-spanning zombie apocalypses from a global politics sort of perspective), but I thought the book was great, and was then surprised to realize that the movie is pretty damn good too, on its own terms.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:44 AM on August 1, 2014

Ok, I finally watched this. First of all, I was watching from a bit of a slavering fanboy position because I have been a gigantic David Wong fan for years and years. So, when I say I loved it, take it with a grain of salt. I loved it. It lost a bit from the book, which managed to be both hilarious and horrifying. The movie wasnt scary, but had some of the funniest scenes I have seen in a long time.

It shows my mental age, but right in the beginning when the doorknob turns into a flaccid penis and they say "That door cannot be opened!" is just so immature and dumb that I couldn't stop laughing and had to pause the movie.

Oh and at the end when Dave and Amy are making out in front of Bark Lee's headstone and she has her giant prosthetic hand on his face? It is a completely throwaway scene but so ridiculous that it got a big guffaw out of me.
posted by Literaryhero at 12:42 PM on August 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

This movie introduced me to Balducci levitation, which I learned while my wife and 9-year old were out of town. Family comes home, kid asks me what I did over the weekend, and I say "oh, I learned how to levitate." Then I bust out my Balducci levitation and FUCKING BLOW HER MIND. Now she does it.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 1:55 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

Saw this late at night as part of this year's Boston Sci Fi Movie Marathon. I didn't know what to expect but I was amused. I noticed the race-based survival demographics problem - I'd like it if things could move past the stage of "the brother always gets it." And while it had a disabled woman in it, she did have a plot-related reason for her disability - it was a cool idea, though, I'll admit. But, it was big stupid fun, and had that sort of attitude of "yeah, they just kept throwing shit at the wall and a lot of it stuck." It didn't end up as "12 year old boy" as I expected it to based on the penis doorhandle,

Also, having seen Galaxy Quest earlier in the marathon, I almost immediately spotted the Thermian uniforms on the space cops at the end.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:40 PM on February 20, 2017

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