To all Animinneapolis and Anime Central attendees who have stopped by my site post-panel!
Thanks again for attending and I hope to see you at other panels I do at future conventions!
Hinthint I’m working on a panel about being a critic on the internet right now
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Ring, or Ringu as it’s called in the US, is a 1998 japanese film that helped kick off the J-horror craze of the early 2000s. Directed by Hideo Nakata, Ring is not only the highest grossing horror film in Japan, but it’s also one of the creepiest and most atmospheric films ever made.
Ring is the chilling tale of Asakawa, a reporter, who’s investigating the mysterious urban legend of a videotape that curses you to die in seven days if you watch it. Asakawa locates the tape, but upon watching it must team up with her ex-husband Ryuji in order to save her life. As they investigate the history of the tape they discover the tragic history of a psychic named Shizuko and her even more powerful daughter Sadako.
Japanese horror differs greatly from Western horror in that it relies less on action and gore, and more on mood and tension. Thats not to say the two are mutually exclusive, but the Japanese films that have been popular in the West all share this quality. Ring is most certainly no exception. It takes its time, letting the tension and distress settle in. Even individual shots will pause to convey a lack of comfort. For example, when Ryuji visits Asakawa’s apartment to see the tape he pauses when he enters, giving us the impression that something is off without using dialogue or a dutch tilt.
Ring is also a very smart film, making sure not to over-explain to it’s audience what’s going on. Important details like Ryuji being Asakawa’s ex are not mentioned until half an hour past him being introduced and even then in a random line of dialogue. It could be said that it under-explains some things, like how Asakawa’s son Yoichi saw the tape, but the story of the film is still coherent and the ending makes sense. The core mystery of the film is an intriguing one, but accentuated by the progressive discoveries we make about the characters investigating, it becomes incredibly engaging.
Don’t expect jump scares or an action-packed climax, since Ring has neither of those things. If you do prefer those in your horror movie then check out the American remake The Ring (2002). It’ll serve you nicely. Ring on the other hand is a quiet, dwelling, and uncomfortable film that explores themes of urban legend and paranormal phenomena in modern society in a foreign, but relatable way. Like the best of J-horror, you won’t be hiding behind the couch as you watch, but you will have chills on the back of your neck for the rest of the night, especially after the film’s shocking ending.
The debate over violence created by media has been a long and arduous one. It’s been fought in schools, churches, congress, and apparently little indy films such as A Thousand Cuts. Unfortunately, A Thousand Cuts isn’t a commentary on the state of the mentally ill in this country or the over-simplification of issues created by politicians, lobbyists and the news. Instead this is a hateful little film that wants to be a hell of a lot more clever than it ultimately ends up being thanks to the poorly thought-out writing.
A Thousand Cuts follows around narcissistic horror director Lance, played by Michael Newcomer, doing his best Ewan McGregor impression. The film opens on an overly long party scene where Lance drinks, harasses women, and brags about how much money his “A Thousand Cuts” franchise has made. The party is interrupted by a blackout, during which a sparkler with a picture of Lance’s dead mother appears. Lance is understandably angry, but not enough to let the party stop, that is, until another blackout turns out to somehow be the last straw. After all the attendees clear out, the only two people left are Lance and the electrician Frank (Michael O’Keefe). Lance invites Frank in for a drink and as the two talk, Lance slowly realizes that Frank may be up to something. He tries to leave, but Frank pulls a gun on him and explains Lance needs to be punished for causing the death of Frank’s daughter: Susan.
Thus begins the action for the next hour of the film: these two talking. Frank threatens that Melanie, Lance’s sister who Frank has locked away, will run out of oxygen before the cops could find out where she is. Stuck in a standoff, the two slowly exposit their backgrounds and debate whether Lance is at fault for Susan’s death. Susan was murdered by a serial killer inspired by Lance’s films and although Lance followed the trial, he never publicly apologized or stopped making films.
This is the argument that the film is very obviously making. Hollywood doesn’t give a shit about the consequences of its actions and while they are most certainly not to blame for the crimes of serial killers like the one in the film, that doesn’t mean they’re not assholes about it. The idea of making stupid movies for a general audience is also a major theme as during the party scene there are continual references to how you either make movies that sell or get critical acclaim. This angst against the state of film indicates that the filmmakers here are fresh out of college. On top of that, this film is amateur in how it’s made, written, acted, etc… and there are many lines of dialogue that make mention of snooty graduate students or how USC is the biggest school in California. Lance even got his idea for “A Thousand Cuts” from an artistic short film he made that clearly was too pretentious for modern audiences.
The film climaxes with a timid screenwriter (who had previously shown up to give Lance his script) returning to give him the correct draft. He unties Lance and Lance quickly finds out that all of Frank’s plans turned out to be fake. Melanie was in the other room, gagged up and he hadn’t done anything to her. In desperation, Frank tries to kill Melanie, forcing Lance to shoot him. When asked “Why?”, Frank replies “I wanted you to feel what it’s like to actually kill someone,” before expiring. This is completely inconsistent with the actions of the character up to this point, making this idiotic ending the bow on top of a poorly written, paced, and thought-out script.
I make it a point to never hate films, as they’re are made with passion and love by the filmmakers, no matter how bad they are. That is, except for films that have some kind of palpable disdain for someone or something. I hated Chain Letter because it hated technology and my generation, and I hate A Thousand Cuts because it hates Hollywood with all of the passion that it claims that Hollywood has towards the critical audience. Not only is it insulting to say that the masses will consume any garbage you put in front of them, but it’s idiotic to spread hatred against the people you’re pissed at for hating you. An actual criticism of Hollywood or commentary on the violence in our society “caused” by media would make for an interesting movie, but A Thousand Cuts does nothing but regurgitate the same arguments we’ve heard about violent movies before and re-portray the Hollywood assholes that have existed in film for decades. I’ll admit that it sticks to its morals by having little violence in it, but all that makes for is a boring and anti-climactic film that isn’t worth anybody’s time.
There was a point in time when I used to be the angry internet geek, one who took the Nostalgia Critic’s word as gospel and points off a film for not meeting my ridiculous expectations. I had little respect for the filmmakers and a mean spiteful opinion of many movies without having seen them. Looking back at my Legend of Sorrow Creek Review you can see that, and while that is where I got my start and where many critics operate, I’m glad I’ve grown out of it. It’s important to look at not just plot holes and bad acting, but why those things don’t work for you in a movie. To see the film as a whole and as a work of art, not just it’s individual parts and as a piece of pure entertainment. To pay mind to the intentions of the filmmakers, as well as how I respond. While to an extent I’m still like that (the mere mention of Baz Luhrmann makes me twitch) there was a time when I was much worse, and during said time I was on a podcast called Podwreck. My co-hosts and I made an effort to review a movie each episode and on one episode we watched V/H/S, which I HATED with the burning rage of a thousand suns . I started to write a script for a video review of it and I made it about 5 full pages before losing interest and giving up. So what better way to reflect on 50 reviews of growth then taking a look at that bane of my existence: V/H/S.
V/H/S is the 2012 anthology horror movie that was (surprisingly) popular enough to warrant a sequel in 2013. Since it is an anthology, it’s hard to talk about the movie without examining it’s parts. So we’ll talk about each short individually and then how they compound to form a movie as a whole.
The first short “Amateur Night” is the story of three guys who go out clubbing, secretly recording the whole thing on a set of camera glasses they bought. The cameraman catches the attention of a mysterious girl who comes along with him and the others back to the hotel where sexual frivolity, and of course horror, ensues. This short is fairly middle of the road with no characters to speak of, mediocre writing and an interesting, (though predictable) twist. The effects are pretty fairly good and the idea of recording from glasses is an intriguing one (definitely ahead of its time considering how Google Glass just came out). My problem with this is that the characters are so obnoxious and unlikeable that the first half is hard to watch. However, once shit hits the fan (which I won’t delve into due to spoilers) it’s admittedly intriguing to watch.
The second vignette, “Second Honeymoon” is written, directed, and edited by Ti West (director of The House of the Devil) and is the story (if you can call it that) of a couple who are on a road trip out west and are unknowingly being stalked by a mysterious stranger. This is definitely the worst of the bunch, because it’s soooo boring. West’s characters aren’t likeable or intriguing, and there is so little going on that there’s no escaping them. The twist is out of nowhere, despite being painfully foreshadowed by a scene with a fortune-telling machine. The acting is mediocre, with some of the better performances of the film, but there’s little in the script to work with. There is an effective scene where the man is being filmed at night and then it pans over to the girl to show she’s not operating the camera, proving that Ti West is still competent. I think that if Ti West can get past his narcissistic auteurism and direct someone else’s script maybe he can pump out another quality work.
The third short ” Tuesday the 17th” is a perfect example of wasted potential in these anthologies. It’s the tale of a group of stereotypical teens who are invited up to a lake by one of their friends, only to end up as her bait for a mysterious killer. This is a great concept and a fantastic twist on the classic slashers, essentially being what would happen after a film like The Burning. However, it’s stained by the incredibly loathsome characters and the awful and cheesy effects. I understand the homage to the 80s, but this is clearly supposed to be some kind of deconstruction and therefore it should be played straight. I would have loved to see this script turned into a feature and put into the hands of someone far more competent.
The fourth vignette is the annoyingly titled “The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger.” This will be our final venture into mediocrity, and it’s the chronicle of Emily and her boyfriend, who are long distance due to college. Strange things start to happen in Emily’s apartment and as they get worse it becomes clear to the boyfriend that there’s something wrong with her. This one is just bloody weird, and while I’ve got very few reasons to dislike it, I just do. The progression of the plot is fine and the twist is interesting, despite raising a ton of questions. It just feels hollow, like the writer didn’t think any further than what we saw on screen and never truly created a world for you to get immersed in.
The last short is “10/31/1998” and it’s the only record of a group of guys who, in search of a friend’s halloween party, enter a house and get far more than they bargained for: some kind of ritual in the attic. In every story up to this there’s been a lack of realism, a sense that you’re watching a shitty horror movie instead of actual footage, but this short manages to insert slightly more realism than the others. Despite the unlikeable characters, they still act like normal humans, and because of that the events progress much like one would imagine they would in reality. The effects are pretty good considering it’s budget and thankfully so, as they’re used for some of the most interesting and fresh ideas I’ve seen in horror in a while. This one hits a lot of the right notes for me and while it’s not perfect, it sure makes me wish I had directed it.
Then of course there are the interludes, titled “Tape 56”, and they provide the framework for the film with the story of a group of filmmakers/criminals who get hired to steal a VHS tape out of an old guy’s house. While searching they get picked off one by one, mostly while watching the collection of strange footage this now deceased man has. This one bothered me a lot as the camera work and editing were the most chaotic out of the lot and the characters the least likeable. We see them molest a woman, but we don’t even get to know their names before they’re picked off by the “creature.” It’s lack of explanation of almost everything we see from motivations to plot points set the tone for the underwhelming shorts to follow.
As a whole, despite it’s retro title, V/H/S feels very modern. It abides by the STUPID modern cliche of making your characters dislikable assholes and has a very rebellious/punk feel to it. It plays more on the ideas of the past then creating it’s own, as most horror does these days. The writing as a whole wasn’t very strong and I think that if maybe a few of the weaker shorts were replaced by more original ones, the film could have really risen above the rest of the indy slog. For me the film was summed up in its ending credits, which were flashy, stylized, and nauseating. It wanted to be cool, taking up the very important title of V/H/S (In the horror community VHS is a golden age), but it didn’t exploit its title to the fullest. It instead resorts to the tropes of today and falls flat on it’s face. V/H/S is worth watching if you’re a horror fan, but it’s a low priority one at that. It’s currently on Netflix instant.
Well after all that negativity, it’s about time we move onto something a little more positive. Thanks everyone for sticking with me through 50 reviews! We’ve been through some of the worst and best films made, not to mention a ton of really mediocre ones. We’ve been depressed about the state of cinema and excited for the future. Here’s hoping for not just 50 more, but 500!
Edited by Kelly Leung. Contact/hire her at email@example.com
Maybe one day I’ll come back to this, but for now…
This movie is sooooo boring. The pace is slow as molasses and the script decides to ignore a little thing called plot in order to concentrate on the Director’s fancies, be they locusts or metaphysics. The performances are terrible, with the exception of James Earl Jones who has little to do. The soundtrack consists of screams and chants that make you want to pull your friggin hair out. The effects so far seem non-existant as this director stoutly refuses to show anything beyond an occasional vision. Everyone acts inconsistently, even within a scene and the dialogue is just clunky and stupid. I’m turning this movie off, I’m gonna watch some anime instead.
Sam Raimi is considered a master of horror, but he’s done relatively little to contribute to that title in the past decade. He’s been busy with the Spider-man trilogy and that Oz movie, but he did return to his roots in 2009’s Drag Me to Hell. A odd mix of both modern and classic Raimi, this film stands as a unique and unusual specimen that demands to be examined.
After denying an old gypsy woman an extension on her mortgage, Christine finds herself cursed to have her soul taken to Hell after 3 days. Now in a desperate race against time, Christine must overcome the supernatural forces that are playing with her before their final deed, all the while fighting to keep the things she values most in life, being her job and her boyfriend.
Sam Raimi is most well known for the Evil Dead trilogy, where he mixed over-the-top horror with campy comedy to varying degrees and results. Now the one to really examine in contrast to this film is The Evil Dead, which managed to be over-the-top while still being creepy and a little scary. Drag Me to Hell tries to hit this same balance and while it does to an extent achieve it, there’s just something off about it. As I was watching it I tried to figure out what wasn’t working for me, and I think it’s that Drag Me to Hell is lacking charm. It doesn’t have that kind of charm that the Evil Dead trilogy has or that his other works have. Even Spider-man has a charm to the first two films, but this one, while it has a little, is just missing that. It seems too self-aware that it’s campy and silly, almost like it just got done watching the Evil Dead films. That may just be speculation on my part and not matter to anyone else, but I thought I’d try to explain why this film didn’t work particularly well for me.
Alright enough of that flitting around, lets get to the actual meat and maggots of this movie. Sam Raimi has for all intents and purposes created one of the most unique horror movies of the 2000s. His blend of horror, comedy and even just good writing was sorely lacking last decade and even nowadays. He somehow manages to take cliches that we’ve seen and present them flat-out and then shortly thereafter show something you’ve never seen before. It’s an awkward blend that will turn some people off, but will excite most horror fans.
The acting is fine in this movie, not anything to write home about, but it’s a step up from the wooden performances of many a horror production. The score is some weird blend of horror and the soundtrack to Spider-man, but it’s ultimately quite good. The effects are really good… when they’re practical. The CGI in this movie is godawful, even for it’s time. It’s probably a good thing that this is such a cheesy movie, or those scenes would be incredibly distracting.
Drag Me to Hell doesn’t strike me as mandatory watching in any way, or something even worth buying. However, it is definitely a unique watch and will serve as quite refreshing for those weighed down by the found-footage dredge. If there’s one thing I can say about Drag Me to Hell it’s that it’s fun and really that’s all that matters. It’s a reassurance that Raimi can still do horror, granting that he’s given a low enough budget. Also to anyone interested in lighting, this serves as a great pallet of very basic, but effective lighting techniques. Drag Me to Hell is available to buy/rent from iTunes, Amazon Instant, and Google Play.
If there’s one bit of knowledge you should pick up from the following review it’s this: NEVER GO SEE MOVIES IN JANUARY. It’s a dumping ground of all the movies the studios didn’t want to release in the previous year or have no better time to release the rest of the year. Looking at the chart on Rotten Tomatoes there are only one or two movies released this year that have a score above 50%. So far this year we’ve had the Asylum-wannabe Legend of Hercules, the horrendously unfunny Ride Along, the hispanic bore-fest Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, the Godfrey-Hoed 47 Ronin, and coming up we have the doomed I, Frankenstein (which I’m sure will follow in the footsteps of Dylan Dog and Priest as being a not too bad, but horribly cliched movie that ruins a great premise) and That Awkward Moment where men act like assholes… like every other comedy these days. So Devil’s Due already has that going against it, let alone the fact it’s yet another found-footage film and that it seems to be a remake of Rosemary’s Baby. However, does it manage to scrap it’s way to excellence despite these handicaps? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. No.
Devil’s Due is the story of a newlywed couple who finds themselves expecting after the wife is impregnated on their honeymoon by a mysterious cult. The next 9 months quickly become a nightmare as they’re plagued by the wife’s unusual violent outbursts, telekinesis and lust for blood. The conspiracy deepens as they seem to be followed everywhere and people in their lives seem to disappear, leaving the husband on a desperate search for answers (filming all the way).
Found-footage/Mockumentary is a style of filmmaking that has exploded into the horror community and very slightly into other genres, mainly through the independent movement. Found-footage is absolutely dirt-cheap to make and they turn regular horror movie profits, which is why studios love them so much. Many horror fans despise them for being slow and anti-climatic with terrible acting and effects. My argument back is that most horror movies have terrible acting, a good chunk have shitty effects, and for the first 50 years of horror the movies were slow-paced. I actually like a few found-footage movies, like The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, and to a certain extent Paranormal Activity 2 and 3. While I had great experiences viewing them for the first time they all have no re-watch value. Chronicle, which isn’t horror, but still a film I thoroughly enjoyed, is probably the only one I would go back and watch again for the purposes of actual entertainment. Mockumentary’s a film-style I can respect if a) it’s just a style and their are no in-story cameras (Chernobyl Diaries) or b) if they have cameras in the story and use them properly (Blair Witch, Paranormal Activity). Devil’s Due doesn’t fall into either of these, with a myriad of inaccuracies that on their own are the nitpicks of a film nerd, but combined create a lack of believability in the story (which is the whole point of found footage). There are tons of camera angles that shouldn’t exist, but do because the director said so. The cameras all look the same with maybe a filter thrown on, despite being radically different models. The husband even mentions that the tape is gone despite the fact the movie is clearly shot in digital HD. If you’re going to be found footage, make the effort to be found footage. There was no reason this movie needed to be found footage other then the fact that the writers couldn’t come up with anything original and scary enough for the studio to put more money into it.
Now since we can pretty much ignore acting or effects and just assume they’re shit, lets go to the scares shall we. The most important part of a found footage movie are the payoffs of all the build-up and suspense the relatively slow paced rest of the movie creates. At least thats how it’s supposed to work. Devil’s Due is slow paced alright, letting us watch the marriage and honeymoon of these fairly boring protagonists. I understand the theoretical purpose behind this as it’s intended to get us invested in these characters, however it’s completely ineffective as the only defining characteristic the guy has is that he likes to film stuff and while the girl actually has character and is interesting to watch, it doesn’t matter since she gets possessed and becomes the antagonist. Let’s contrast this with Rosemary’s Baby, where Rosemary is in a similar situation, except she has her faculties the whole time and it isn’t until the end where she loses it. The mother here goes bat-shit insane half-way through the movie and we might as well be watching The Exorcist from that point. Well except for the fact that The Exorcist was scary, and this movie is inept at building any tension or suspense to make it’s frequent jump-scares anything more then cheap tricks. The film relies almost entirely on jump-scares and the rest of it’s fear tactics involve breaking a window, eating raw meat and a hilarious scene where a bunch of kids get thrown around like a scene out of Chronicle. It’s hard to describe why there appears to be no threat here and yet there is in movies like Paranormal Activity and Blair Witch, but rest assured you have nothing to be scared of when watching this film except for when you look at your watch and discover just how little time has passed.
A colleague of mine who I frequently disagree with on movies stated that Devil’s Due is nowhere near as bad people make it out to be and that it’s actually worth a trip to the theatre if you’ve run out of December releases to see. While I think it’s true that this movie is not the worst thing ever made and that it doesn’t deserve the 17% rating on Rotten Tomatoes it has right now, it’s nowhere near worth the current $12 movie ticket price. If anything this movie is just blatantly mediocre and with a different director it could have actually been an interesting take on the devil baby storyline. As it stands though, there are plenty of movies far more worth your time if you’re interested in these themes, but if you really are curious about this movie then just wait until it hits Redbox. If you do want a devil pregnancy story then I recommend the slow but effective Rosemary’s Baby or even the first season of American Horror Story and if you want a found footage movie then check out, if you haven’t already The Blair Witch Project, the oft forgotten The Last Broadcast, and if you don’t want horror then Chronicle. Before I resign my keyboard for this review I would just like to emphasize that you should really hold off going to the theatre until February as odds are your viewing experience will be less then pleasant. Thats not to say all January releases suck but there certainly is never an Oscar winner among them.
For as large of a presence as Dracula has in pop culture, his movie count is actually quite low at least when you consider the ones that have actually breached the mainstream. There’s the Universal Dracula series, the Hammer Dracula series, Francis Ford Coppala’s Dracula and Dracula 2000. If we exclude Coppola’s Dracula and Dracula 2000 as being fairly irrelevant these days, then we’re left with the original Dracula series and Hammer’s Dracula. While you hear tons about Universal monster movies from filmmakers who cite them as their inspirations and people who have used them as the standard for the past 80 years, you don’t often hear about the Hammer films anymore. They still have some presence, with their ideas folded into the mind of pop culture like something out of Inception, but no one really talks about the films themselves. It’s a shame too, since Horror of Dracula (the first of the Hammer Dracula films) is one of the best not only Dracula, but vampire films I’ve ever seen.
Since Hammer had to keep their film different enough from Universals to not get sued, the original Bram Stoker story is not followed in this incarnation. Jonathan Harker travels to the castle of Count Dracula (Christopher Lee) to start his tenure as the new librarian, or at least thats his cover as he’s actually there to put an end to Dracula’s reign of terror. He unfortunately doesn’t succeed, and it’s up to Doctor Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) to finish the job.
There’s something about the tone and mood of Hammer films that I thoroughly enjoy. The gothic sets, the indeterminate time period, the excellent cast of recurring actors, the grandeur over grindhouse. All of it mixes together to create a dark a moody universe ripe for the type of horror America was severely lacking at the time. Thats why my spirits immediately lifted when I saw that The Woman in Black was a Hammer film, because I knew they could create the tone necessary for that kind of throwback ghost story.
While the other Dracula movies steadily declined in quality as they started pumping them out, this one had a certain freshness to it. It’s clear that the script, acting, directing, mise en scene all had tons of effort and heart poured into them. The pacing of the film works well, the story has the right twists and turns and overall it’s an engrossing film to watch. It’s a kind of movie and story we just don’t get these days. It’s slow, meticulous, atmospheric instead of fast, bombastic and gory. Thats not to say that there’s no gore in this film, there’s a little, but the very small quantity of it makes what is there extremely potent. We feel the weight the small amount of blood on screen would hold in real life because we’re not being sprayed with it like a Raimi film (not that that’s a bad thing in his films). There’s also something to be said for the colour of the blood in Horror, as it’s an odd vibrant red somehow created by technicolor process of the day. It’s a treat to look at for horror hounds like myself.
Something I noticed while watching Horror of Dracula was that it was fairly intelligent, and treated the audience the same way. It wasn’t heavy-handed in any way, be it with plot points, acting, or exposition. It cut away from scenes, leaving you to fill in the blanks, which wasn’t hard to do or particularly left up to interpretation. What happened was set up, but not necessarily delivered. This meant more time for the film to develop and allowed the horrors of the movie to play out in your mind, a la Hitchcock, which tends to be a far more effective weapon when used properly. This subtle difference in treatment is something that is sorely lacking in a lot of films today. Wether intentionally or not, there seems to be a more obvious manner in which stories are presented. Maybe this film is just a special occasion, but it seems to me that this could be a source of conflict for any audience not trained to think during a film. That’s why blockbusters don’t give two shits about story and subtlety is something entirely lacking from most mainstream comedies. Anyways, something to ponder when watching this or any other older film.
Horror of Dracula is not for everyone, especially those who fall into the category discussed above. However, those who are tolerable or even fans of a slow-burn film are certainly going to be in the right mind set to enjoy this film. I highly recommend this movie to anyone looking for something different, be it in horror or film in general. It’s so different from modern horror, yet isn’t a black and white or even silent production. You can still relate to it since it’s in colour, and it’s timeless/period setting will make it more acceptable to the mind. Horror of Dracula is not necessarily underrated, but just under-watched in this modern era where vampires only have distant relation to the once powerful image that Dracula once imposed. Horror of Dracula is available on Amazon Instant, itunes and DVD.
With all the adaptations, remakes, and sequels flooding the Hollywood screen it’s easy to say that there’s no creativity left in movies. Even independent movies tend to be homages or remixes of the same old tropes and stories. However, occasionally one can find a truly original idea, one that relies less on the cliches of the past and more on creating the cliches of the future. It’s rare, but John Dies at the End is one such film… ironically it’s an adaptation, but aren’t all the greats? Well even if you don’t consider John Dies at the End one of the greats, it’s still true that it’s one of the weirdest, most and random, and frankly unique films to come out in a long time.
John Dies at the End is the story of… well it’s complicated. Meet Dave, just an average guy, that is until a weird encounter with a jamaican leads him to have to rescue his friend John, who’s fine except he’s high on something called Soy Sauce, which Dave gets accidentally injected with and this causes him to be able to remember things that haven’t happened yet and pull down the curtains of reality, until he’s interrupted by a stranger who puts a slug in his shirt and did I mention he’s telling this story to a reporter? Actually I guess the real question is that the same axe you used to kill the nazi with?
No I’m not bullshitting you. Yes thats all in the movie. Yes I wrote that summary intentionally confusing. If by now you’re completely turned off then odds are you wouldn’t like this movie. In fact there aren’t many people that would. John Dies at the End requires the pinnacle of belief suspension and that can only happen if you go with the flow. Either you figure out what’s going on and let slide the things that don’t make sense because they don’t make sense or you don’t. If you can accept John Dies at the End for what it is, then you’re in for a roller coaster ride of weird-ass fun. It has genuine twists and turns in the story and you get so lost in the film that you honestly have no idea where it’s going. There’s no formula or cliches to rely on and predict, just… strangeness.
The actual writing of John Dies at the End is extremely witty and the characters all feel like people despite the alienating things around them. They react quite similarly to how you do and that brings you closer to them as you are both trying to figure what the fuck is going on. The acting is fine, it’s not Oscar-worthy, but it’s never distracting and thats the important part. There’s actually a few notable actors in the film including Clancy Brown (The bad guy from Highlander and Lex Luthor in the DC animated universe), Doug Jones (Abe from Hellboy), and Paul Giamatti (A bunch of stuff, I don’t know he’s just really familiar), as well as a few notable voice actors from various shows and cartoons.
This movie clearly had a low budget, which isn’t surprising since no investor would put money into this movie. It never really shows in the camerawork or production design or anything, but it massively shows in the effects. John Dies at the End uses a mix of both CGI and practical effects, which is actually becoming a rarity these days, especially for low budget productions. These effects don’t look great and a lot of the practicals are frankly laughable, but there are still plenty of points where you don’t even notice and that means they did their job. Where the effects really falter is unfortunately the climax, where the enter the world of green-screened backgrounds. I think the theory was that there was no way they could afford to make that look good, so they decided to make their other effects look better. Which I was fine with, since by that point you’re so taken by the story you don’t give a shit anymore.
John Dies at the End is one of the most unique movies I’ve ever seen and for me it hit a lot of the notes I love to see in films or TV shows. So while I tried to remain objectionable, I clearly didn’t since this is going to become one of my favourite movies to watch. It’s most certainly not for everyone since it’s so fucking weird, but for those who can suspend their disbelief or are just intrigued by the concepts, this movie will stick in your brain forever as a fantastic film. It’s surrealistic and cult-moviey, but it’s a ton of fun. I both want to and don’t want to see more films like this. I would love to see more films take on the unique concepts in this movie, but at the same time I want John Dies at the End to stand as a purely unique and untouched jewel in the analogues of moviedom. Anyways, John Dies at the End is available on Netflix Instant, Amazon Prime, iTunes and Redbox.