John Dies at the End (Don Coscarelli, 2012)
“You do not choose the soy sauce,” John (Rob Mayes, recently of the Ice Castles remake) tells his best friend (and this movie’s protagonist) Dave (Sparks‘ Chase Williamson) about halfway through John Dies at the End, “the soy sauce chooses you.” And you will know whether the soy sauce has chosen you about two minutes into what may be Don Coscarelli’s best movie in thirty years. If you hear the line “…is he right?” at the end of the first sequence (a take on the Ship of Theseus paradox) and you don’t laugh like a loon, you can probably turn this movie off and forget it exists. But if you do, then you’re in for one of the best thrill rides so far this century.
We open (after that first sequence) with David Wong sitting in a Chinese restaurant with a reporter, Arnie Blondestone (Sideways‘ Paul Giamatti), who’s interviewing him about some strange events that happened a couple of years ago in their podunk little town. Dave, you see, has been at the center of everything, with his friend John. They were at one of those stupid parties that only happens in movies where everyone’s out in a big clearing in the woods, there’s a band, etc., etc., and somehow the cops just ignore the whole thing. They meet up with a small-time dealer who goes by the name of Robert Marley (see what they did there? Actually, there are a lot of musicians’ names lurking about here, it’s one of the movie’s running gags) who’s selling something he calls soy sauce. And man, is it a trip. We find out soon after that Mr. Marley sold the drug to nine people at the party. We find this out when a cop named Appleton (Super 8‘s Glynn Turman) drags John and Dave down to the station and informs Dave that six of those nine people are dead, two are missing, and “your friend in the other room? He don’t look so good.” Which really sucks, because Dave got jabbed by a needle with soy sauce residue on it…
man, we could go on all night before we actually got into spoiler territory. Why? Because there’s actually that much plot here (and not only that, but there are a couple of major subplots that were excised in this adaptation entirely, presumably for length reasons). All of it’s delivered in a quick, witty script whose comic timing never flags, a solid cast (I don’t remember ever actually liking Paul Giamatti in a movie before!), and the fine direction one has come to expect from Coscarelli, those infrequent times he steps behind the camera. This is excellent stuff indeed—check it out, and the faster the better. ****
Trailer. But you don’t need a trailer to know that YOU NEED TO GO SEE THIS NOW.