John Dies at the End (2013)

johndiesattheendStarring Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Paul Giamatti, Clancy Brown, Glynn Turman, Doug Jones, Daniel Roebuck, Fabianne Therese, Jonny Weston, Jimmy Wong

Directed by Don Coscarelli

Expectations: High. It’s been too long since Coscarelli had a movie.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:

I’m very conflicted in my feelings about John Dies at the End. On one hand, I didn’t really like it at all. I lost track of what was going on about an hour into it, and I was never able to remedy that. It’s also a dark comedy, but I largely found it unfunny. But on the other hand, it’s a cornucopia of insane, wild ideas, impressively brought to life by Don Coscarelli, a truly original filmmaker if there ever was one. This makes John Dies at the End at hard film to talk about or rate, as my feelings are very much all over the place.

… Just like the movie. I could attempt to recount the basis of the plot if I understood it enough to, but I’m really at a loss here. There’s so much playing with reality and time, with one character talking on the phone to another in an alternate dimension, while a different version of the guy calling is sitting right in front of the character receiving the call. In any case (and this isn’t really where the film begins), David Wong is at his friend John’s band’s show, and he meets a Jamaican guy who expands his mind. The film also expands from there, and for those able to keep up and find humor in its wild shifts, you’ve likely found a new favorite movie. I can see a cult springing up around this one in the coming years. It didn’t exactly work for me overall, but I was still able to extract a fair amount of entertainment and interest out of the wild shit that played out before me. There are a couple of moments involving a dog, for instance, that are pure, unhinged gold.

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Mini-Review: Incident On and Off a Mountain Road (2005)

Starring Bree Turner, Angus Scrimm, John DeSantis, Ethan Embry, Heather Feeney

Directed by Don Coscarelli

Expectations: Moderate. I’ve wanted to check out these Masters of Horror movies for a while.

So technically this isn’t a movie, being an episode from an original Showtime series, but this series is something special so it deserves discussion. In theory, this series should be everything I’ve ever asked for in modern horror. Gather together a shitload of awesome horror directors that have fallen off the general Hollywood wagon and turn ’em loose without any rules or studio bullshit in their way. Let them make whatever films they want, just as long as they’re fifty minutes in length. Where do I sign? This episode was the one that kicked off the series, and as I’m a ruthless stickler for chronology, I had to start here despite greater interest in other episodes.

Incident On and Off a Mountain Road (what a mouthful) is directed by notable filmmaker Don Coscarelli who did all the Phantasm movies, The Beastmaster and don’t forget Bubba Ho-Tep. He’s never particularly excited me as a director, but I do enjoy a few of his movies. Incident On and Off a Mountain Road isn’t helping his credibility with me at all though, as one of its worst aspects was its poor direction. Nearly every shot is a facial close-up to the point of being claustrophobic. When it’s not a close-up, it’s some shaky handheld “running through the woods” shot that is definitely evocative of the main character’s current situation, but is fucking awful to watch. I should give Coscarelli some credit though, as the version I watched on Netflix Instant is Full Frame 1.33:1 and it looks like the filmed ratio was 1.78:1. This would have helped somewhat with the claustrophobia, but it still doesn’t solve the ridiculous amount of close-ups and shaky cam.

As for the story, it’s fairly interesting, but also predictable and boring. What I mean is that after finishing, I enjoyed the overall story, but watching it play out was painful. The film is told out of order, which always helps a boring story, but I’ve seen more girls being chased through woods by madmen with superhuman strength than I care to count, and this one isn’t anything special. It isn’t without its good moments though, but a few quality KNB FX only go so far. I’d love to say this was great, but I just didn’t enjoy it. At only fifty minutes, it should have flown by in a tornado of scares and gore, but instead it languishes in tired, overused clichés and survival school flashbacks. Oh well, I won’t give up hope for the series just yet.

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