Hey guys! So this summer, seeing as I am now newly graduated and poor to boot, I decided that the rest of June is going to be Netflix month, where I review some of the (possibly good) horror films Netflix has to offer, in case you needed a break from Arrested Development or when its too rainy for the beach.
Book adaptations in the film industry are a dime a dozen. If you can name a title of a beloved novel, there’s likely been an adaptation of it already made, or in the process of being made. Thus, when I heard that David Wong’s action-supernatural-adventure book was being adapted into an independent film, I knew it would one day fall into my lap for me to review it. And now that it’s finally up on Netflix, I can now fulfill my destiny.
Let’s take a look at John Dies at the End.
For those of you who don’t know, John Dies at the End is based on a novel of the same name by Cracked.com’s David Wong. The film follows David Wong as he tries to explain to reporter Arnie about the insane supernatural adventures he has faced along with his motley crew, including best friend John and soon-to-be girlfriend Amy. Having read the book, I can tell you the plot of the movie takes about three interconnected plots from the book and crams it into a single one which is messy and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense from a narrative standpoint. Because of this attempt to streamline the plot, the pacing suffers greatly. It often feels like we’re on one giant speeding train heading to an anti-climatic finale that doesn’t accurately portray how funny and interesting the book is. It doesn’t help that the run time is only 100 minutes.
It was really cool to see the different monsters, characters, and supernatural settings brought to life, the crew did an amazing job. While it is clear that this movie is more of an indie flick than a commercial film, the cinematography is actually pretty well done. The settings are well designed, the lightning is particularly good, the CGI doesn’t look too fakey thanks to switching it out whenever possible for practical effects, and the camera work is par for the course. Even the monsters, arguably the trickiest part of the books to adapt into the film, look great, making them both familiar and disturbing at the same time. In terms of visuals, the film is pretty solid, though I will say that everyone looks very put together for people in a small town in middle America.
The screenplay, written by director Don Coscarelli, does show a love and an understanding of the book which does shine through in spite of its break-neck pacing and stitched together narrative. The acting is pretty strong, which makes it all the more sad that the characters really don’t get much development or much action beyond running around and completing a checklist of items. The actors are all mostly unknowns (save for Paul Giamatti) so hopefully they’ll get their chances at other movies soon.
Overall, despite its sincere efforts, John Dies at the End is a doesn’t work as a film. While I can see all the effort and care that went to trying to adapt the book, it falls flat in part due to its sloppy re-editting of the plot and the lack of character development. Personally, if the plot sounds fun to you, I would recommend reading the book and its sequel which are incredibly amusing (I know, the film critic is telling you to read, just trust me on this one). If you are still interested in seeing the film, I would still cautiously recommend it if only because there are some good things in it that are worth seeing and it’s not the absolute worse adaptation I ever seen. That honor will always go to The Last Airbender.
– Good cinematography and effects.
– Good acting.
– Poor pacing and squeezing the book plots together.
– Little character development