Talk About Your Bad Spoiler Alert: A Review of John Dies at the End

JDAT Poster

This past weekend, I was lucky enough to catch “John Dies at the End” during a Sunday matinee. An indie flick from the creative team that brought us “Bubba Ho-Tep,” this new venture walks that same line between sincere and silly. If you haven’t seen the former, I would suggest it based on Bruce Campbell’s performance alone.

“John Dies”* opens with a creative twist on the old philosophical teaser concerning the persistence of an item’s identity if all of said item’s individual pieces are slowly replaced over time. Also, there’s a zombie. The story itself picks up with the lead character, Dave Wong, meeting with an investigative journalist in a run-down Chinese restaurant. The majority of the events in the film have already transpired, and Dave is recounting them in an effort to get his story “out there.”

The film’s title character is Dave’s best friend and companion in the business of paranormal investigation and extermination. The plot revolves around the duo’s first encounter with the paranormal, and how it led to their current gig: John’s band played a show, the aftermath of which involved black goo, exploding Jamaicans, one-armed girls and topless cat women.


The movie feels like “Constantine” and “Evil Dead” had a baby with “The Hangover” as the midwife. Paranormal events and creatures are treated with appropriate weirdness at first, but the tone eventually shifts to a tongue-in-cheek casualness about it all. The effects are cheesy, but get the job done, especially when they’re not trying too hard. Case-in-point: There’s a scene in a trailer where the back room contains an aquarium with some kind of tentacled… thing floating in it. We never get too close, which only serves to heighten the menace.

Dave and John feel like well-established individuals, and the supporting cast gives them a nice ensemble to play off of. Of particular note are Paul Giamatti as Arnie Bloodstone, the reporter and Clancy Brown as Dr. Albert Marconi, a new-aged spiritual guru who is more than he initially appears. My favorite performance was Glynn Turman as a character simply named Detective, a local cop who decides all of this hocus-pocus is just too much for his town.

I won’t beat around the bush: “John Dies at the End” is not for everyone; Hell, the group I saw it with love this sort of thing and even a few of them didn’t get it. There’s also little-to-no chance it will come to a theater near you, meaning you can save that nine bucks and put it toward picking up the home video release instead.

JDAT Weird

Here’s a quiz: Do you own an “Evil Dead” film, or “Bubba Ho-Tep”? If not, have you at least seen them, and sought afterwards to see them again? If the answer isn’t a hearty yes, I’d pass. Otherwise, I won’t give too much else away, other than to say that at the end, John—

Check out the trailer!

[amazon_link id=”B00B04NJCG” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]John Dies at the End will be released on blu-ray and DVD April 2, 2013.[/amazon_link]

*I can’t tell you how many versions of abbreviating that title I tried before settling on this one.


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