“John Dies at the End”
**** (four hideous spiders)
It's an ill-kept secret among movie lovers (as opposed to "cinephiles") that the best of Sundance comes out at the witching hour--specifically the Park City Midnight series of spooky films.
The Midnight films are seldom fraught with meaning and never important and that's the way fans love them. A case in point is Don Coscarelli's "John Dies at the End."
Coscarelli, beloved for his “Phantasm” films and, more recently, the quirky and hilarious “Bubba Ho-Tep,” has brought David Wong’s web novel to the screen it its full insanity and sarcastic wit.
This isn’t a film to dissect, it’s to be enjoyed in all its joyful goofiness. The concept, in a nutshell, is “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” meets Dr. Who zombies with a smidgen of PBS’s “Elegant Universe” thrown in.
At the core of the plot is a funky street drug called “soy sauce” that causes paranormal, hallucinogenic and psychic side effects. Oh yeah—you don’t choose to take soy sauce—it chooses you, sometimes by sprouting wings and flying kamikaze-like into your mouth.
Dave and John, a couple of slackers, must save the earth, or at least our dimension of the universe, from ... something with a giant eyeball, tentacles and nasty claws. A pivotal character is Bark Lee, a mutt who ingests soy sauce by biting a phony Jamaican addict. (Phony Jamaican, real addict.)
I’d happily give away the end (the title is only partly true, btw), but I don’t really remember.
Blame the soy sauce.
— Glen Warchol