Tuesday, Jul 29, 2014 08:57 pm est

‘John Dies at the End’ shows distinctive style, great cast

Posted on January 30, 2013 | by Jon Marcus

Over the years, director Don Coscarelli has graced the world with several oddities that have been canonized as cult classics. His 2002 film “Bubba Ho-Tep,” for example, pits Elvis Presley and President John F. Kennedy in a battle against an Ancient Egyptian mummy. Coscarelli’s unique brand of absurdity is certainly not lost in his most recent film, “John Dies at the End,” a somewhat abrasive film that features a monster made out of frozen T-bone steaks and a scene in which the main character uses a hot dog as a cellphone.

In “John,” two college dropouts, Dave (Chase Williamson) and John (Rob Mayes), become responsible for saving the world after they come into contact with a drug called Soy Sauce, which blurs the border between earth and another dimension. As reality crumbles in front of their eyes, they search for a way to save mankind with the help of their friends and a dog named Bark Lee.

“John” does an admirable job of not tying itself to a single genre. Although recurrent use of suspense — especially at the beginning of the film — points “John” in the horror/thriller direction, its tense mood is frequently undercut by ample opportunity for laughs, and in one instance by a highly stylized animation sequence depicting a series of gory killings.

The narrative structure is odd, though that is to be expected from a film adapted from a David Wong novel. Viewers are often left without the slightest notion as to what is coming next. As the title suggests, John dies at the end, but this ending is relatively insignificant with regard to the overall plot.

“John” features both good acting and an array of impressive practical effects, but it falls short in the special effects department. Some of the computer-generated backdrops in the later scenes are unconvincing, and portions of the green screen are visible around the edges of certain characters. Williamson is a highlight as Dave, as is Detective Appleton (Glynn Turman), whose sense of divine purpose is reminiscent of Jules Winnfield from “Pulp Fiction.” Bark Lee, a first-time canine actor whom Coscarelli lauded as the “best dog [he] could cast,” is also a standout. The reliably charismatic Paul Giamatti, who plays the journalist to whom Dave recaps his story, delivers a solid performance.

“John Dies at the End” is a niche film — not everyone who sits through the 99-minute journey into the far reaches of unreality is going to be happy with the experience. Fans of Coscarelli’s earlier work, however, will undoubtedly relish this distinctive series of acid trips encapsulated in a single film.

A version of this article appeared in the Jan. 30 print edition. Jon Marcus is a contributing writer. Email him at film@nyunews.com.


profile portrait
Felipe De La Hoz

Multimedia Editor | Felipe De La Hoz is a Colombian national studying journalism at the College of Arts and Sciences. Having been born in Colombia and raised in the United States, Mexico and Brazil, Felipe is a trilingual travel aficionado and enjoys working in varied and difficult environments. Apart from his photography, Felipe enjoys investigative reporting and interviews, interviewing the likes of Colombian ex-M-19 guerrilla fighters and controversial politician Jimmy McMillan. He has covered everything from governmental conferences to full-blown riots, as well as portraiture shoots and dining photography. Having worked under Brazilian photojournalists for Reuters and AFP, Felipe hopes to one day work on demanding journalistic projects and contribute to the global news cycle.

Ann Schmidt

News Editor | Ann is a liberal studies sophomore who lived in Florence during her freshman year. She plans on double-majoring in journalism and political science and is always busy. She is constantly making lists and she loves to laugh.


Daniel Yeom

Daniel started at the Features desk of WSN last Spring, writing restaurant reviews whilst indulging on free food and consequently getting fat. Last Fall, he was the dining editor, and he this semester he is senior editor. Daniel is in Gallatin (living the dream) studying Food & Travel Narratives, incorporating aspects of Food Studies, Journalism, and Media, Culture, and Communication. He loves food more than life itself.

Hannah Luu

Deputy Multimedia Editor | Hannah Luu is a ridiculously great Deputy Multimedia Editor. She is a sophomore from Northern California. If you think Northern California means San Francisco you might need to closely examine a map. She is passionate about NPR and being half Asian.

  • How to join:

    The Washington Square News holds open weekly budget meetings at its office located at 838 Broadway every Sunday. All are welcome to attend, no matter your background in journalism, writing, or reporting. Specific times for meetings by desk are listed below. If you wish to talk to an editor before you attend, feel free to check out the Staff page.

    5 P.M. 6 P.M. 6 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 7 P.M.

    Applying for an editor position: Applications for editor positions during the fall or spring semesters are available twice each academic year and can be found here when posted. Applications for the Fall 2012 semester are closed, but check back for Spring 2013. Those who wish to apply are urged to publish pieces in the newspaper and contact current editors for shadowing.

    History of the Washington Square News:

    The Washington Square News is the official daily student newspaper of New York University and serves the NYU, Greenwich Village, and East Village communities. Founded as an independent newspaper in 1973, the WSN allows its undergraduate writers and photographers to cover campus and city news and continues to grow its strong body of award-winning journalists and photographers.

  • The WSN has a circulation of about 60,000 and can be found in over a hundred purple bins distributed throughout campus. It is published Monday through Thursday during the fall and spring semesters and online on Friday, with additional special issues published in the summer. The newspaper recently revamped its website during the Fall 2012 semester.

    Like few campus newspapers in the country, the paper is editorially and financially independent from the university and is solely responsible for selling advertisements to fund its production. The WSN, including its senior staff, is run solely by current undergraduate students and the business-division is largely student-operated as well.

    A Board of Directors comprised of alumni, NYU professors and working news media professionals serves as advisors to the paper. Board members have no control in the WSN's editorial policy or newsroom operations. Alumni of the newspaper are established and leading journalists in such news organizations as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NBC news, ABC news, Fox News, and USA Today.