This Week in Movies You Missed: What would happen if you crossed the Harold and Kumar movies with David Cronenberg? Or Men in Black with a stoner's shaggy-dog story?
What You Missed
David Wong (Chase Williamson, pictured) relates his unlikely adventures to a journalist (Paul Giamatti). It all started (or did it?) when his friend, John (Rob Mayes), got dosed with a drug called "soy sauce" at a show. Suddenly John found himself moving through time and space, accessing other dimensions and knowledge he wasn't supposed to have — and then he died. Or did he?
The sauced experiences of John and David (a pseudonym, he hastens to point out) will lead to their becoming "spiritualist exorcists" who routinely encounter interdimensional portals in shopping malls, giant spiders, ghosts, aliens, sentient viruses and slugs that try to burrow inside you.
When you're connected to the heartbeat of the universe (or something like that), nothing ever is what it seems.
Why You Missed It
Based on the cult novel by David Wong (still a pseudonym) of Cracked.com, John Dies at the End was directed by Don Coscarelli (Phantasm, The Beastmaster) — an apt meeting of sensibilities if there ever was one. The low-budget flick made it to 19 U.S. theaters.
Should You Keep Missing It?
First, a contextual note: I interrupted this movie to watch NBC's "Hannibal," and that show was more creatively bizarre than anything in John Dies at the End. (And, oh, the food photography!) Seriously. Watch it; it won't be around for long.
That said, if "Men in Black on acid" sounds good to you, you shouldn't miss this.
Packed with grubby, icky, inventive special effects (at least some of them practical), silly fanboy jokes and more absurd plot turns than the average Philip K. Dick novel, John Dies at the End is never boring. Its wacko plot isn't particularly resonant and doesn't add up to much, but then, neither do most drug trips.
For a particularly fun double feature, watch this with Limitless, which also concerns a drug that turns you into a super-genius capable of predicting the future. That film takes the conceit seriously — to a ludicrous degree — while John treats it with the levity it deserves.
Speaking of which, what's with the super-genius drugs these days? Maybe it's all a big metaphor for the internet! Having smartphones in our pockets makes us feel so much smarter, so much more in control of everything, when in reality it just makes it easier for us to look up the filmography of Clancy Brown (who plays a celebrity spiritualist in this movie).
Verdict: destined to be a minor stoner-sleepover classic.
More New Off-the-Beaten Track DVDs
Down the Shore (Famke Janssen and James Gandolfini in a drama set on the Jersey Shore)
The Giant Mechanical Man (rom com with Jenna Fischer and Chris Messina)
Hyde Park on Hudson (Bill Murray as FDR)
Each week in "Movies You Missed," I review a brand-new DVD release picked for me by Seth Jarvis, buyer for Burlington's Waterfront Video, where you can obtain these fine films. (In central Vermont, try Downstairs Video.)