Directed by: Don Cascarelli
Written by: David Wong (book) & Don Cascarelli (Screenplay)
Quick Review – 7/10 – Cascarelli has an undoubtable visual style and manages to adapt about one-half of the book in stunning faith. Large missing parts are sure to confuse anyone who has read the book, and leave unimpressed those who have not.
John Dies at the End is the story of slacker, David Wong, and his equally slacker friend, John, who come into contact with a bizarre drug known only as soy sauce. The soy sauce opens up their minds to other worlds, worlds we all feel the existence and influence of, but are rendered incapable of seeing. From here they go on many episodic adventures.
The movie focuses on the origin story, the two protagonist’s first encounter with the soy sauce, and David’s attempts to get the word out by relaying this tale to Arnie, a journalist who has agreed to listen to the story.
Don Cascarelli is not a film maker I had ever heard of or watched before, but he is apparently a famous B-horror movie director. That being said, its understandable that some special effects would be cheesy looking. However, with the expectation of low-quality material, the film thoroughly surprised me with the impressiveness of its monsters and other effects. When it comes time for Dave to experience the high of the Soy Sauce, you are treated to a variety of quickly done shots that show off just how much of a visual powerhouse Cascarelli is. The images he has set up and captured are easily one of the best parts of the film.
Not only that, but for what he has done, Cascarelli has captured what I personally thought would be a very difficult book with such accuracy, that I had wished more than a mere one hundred minutes exposure to the material. Clearly, Cascarelli deserved a much greater project here. He has not missed a beat, the origin story plays out word for word, and is almost perfect in the way it captures scene by scene the story involved.
Which is perhaps why, as a reader, it is disappointing to see the movie jump a significant portion, over two hundred pages worth of material is missing completely from the movie, and very little of it is cut in, and what is cut in I cannot reasonably say makes logical sense within the context of the film. This is because, as a reader of the books, it does not make logical sense to me in context of the book. Therefore, I cannot really strike the movie for this.
However, the movie does use a tiny portion of its running time for the climax of the story, a climax with little warning or context within the film, and this does feel rushed and underdeveloped even in the movie. The evil monster Kor’rok is perhaps a joke largely lost on audience viewers, and its a situation like this that makes me think that John Dies at the End is largely a movie for people who’ve read the book, which as someone who has read the book I can safely say the opinions will be this: “Thank you very much for what you’ve given us… but why on Earth did you leave so much behind?”
The movie still retains its third act problems, regardless of what it has left out. By cutting such a large part of the book, the film shows its sufferances by creating many deus ex machina moments, leaving the feeling of an underdeveloped and rushed ending. Particularly, the change in one character’s nature makes me question whether or not he will come off looking like a cheesy ass pull, or a genuinely cool character.
In many ways, my review for the film is hindered. I would like to re-emphasize that I enjoyed watching this film. Any time I felt disappointment was not from the film itself, and what is here is perhaps still accessible to someone who can keep up with the film. But to the uninitiated, I feel like a lot of the charm, intellect, and the soul and heart that drove the book is missing from the film. If you are looking for a humorous, visually striking film, this will wet your appetite. If you are looking for a faithful adaptation of the material in the book… well your in luck, you get about 50% of the book in this movie, and considering how wrong this could’ve gone, its still impressive to see what they’ve done.
Final Score: 7/10