Don't be so sure that title is a spoiler.
“John Dies at the End” is so packed with flashbacks within flashbacks, time-altering parallel universes, grisly and bizarro mishaps and shape shifters, it's uncertain it would matter either way.
Call this a cult film extraordinaire for hipster geeks of fantasy horror comedy. But even if you're not familiar with director Don Coscarelli (“Phantasm,” “Bubba Ho-Tep”) — and I wasn't — “John Dies at the End” manages a weird appeal that defies easy definition, despite its narrative incoherence.
One prime reason is its handsome bromantic leads, Dave (Chase Williamson) and John (Rob Mayes, “The Client List”), a couple of slackers spouting deadpan sarcasm while trying to save the planet from invading aliens.
Coscarelli opens his tale with a totally unrelated anecdote asking if a zombie-killing hatchet, on which both blade and handle have been bloodied and replaced, can be referred to as the same hatchet.
It's that kind of movie.
The main framing device is Dave sitting down in a dingy Chinese restaurant to tell reporter Arnie (scene stealer Paul Giamatti) his fantastic story in a series of flashbacks.
It begins at a party where John's band is playing. Dave runs across a Jamaican druggie named Robert Marley (yeah, really) who knows what Dave is going to say before he says it. It's all because of a new drug called “soy sauce” that happens to contain extraterrestrial fungal spores.
Before you know it, both John and Dave are tripping on the stuff. Once they are, you realize this movie would probably best be enjoyed while you're on a mind-altering substance of some sort yourself.
The weirdness rolls on, involving a rogue cop (Glynn Turman, “House of Lies”), a TV mystic (Clancy Brown, “Shawshank Redemption”), a girl with an artificial hand (Allison Weissman), a good guy from another dimension (Doug Jones, “Pan's Labyrinth”), a wacko priest (Angus Scrimm, “Phantasm”) and the evil guy behind the soy sauce, Korrock (Kevin Michael Richardson).
John's wink, wink deadpan helps make the controlled insanity bearable as we deal with things like a flying moustache, severed limbs with a mind of their own, a monster that forms out of frozen meat products, a bratwurst that functions like a cellphone, a dog that drives and a portal to another dimension that our heroes must cross at the Mall of the Dead (don't ask).
At some point, you give up on making any sense of this and just go with the crazy inventiveness and alternating jolts of exploding gore and laugh-out-loud surrealism.
If you love this sort of thing, well, here it is. And if you don't, I'll save you the trouble and tell you that John dies at the end. Maybe. Sort of. Not totally.
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