Greetings friends, or should I say frenemies. You don’t know me and that’s good, it means you will be unable to spit on me should we pass in the street. Welcome to my own little slice of the Two-Headed Nerd Empire. Though, let’s think of it less as a slice and more of the weird little curio shop that gives you the jibblies every time you walk past and peer into the poorly lit interior through the unnaturally greasy windows, wondering how this place remains in business and suspecting that there is some unnatural power at work.
Enough self indulgent exposition, let’s get to the heart of why I am here. I talk about movies, so much so that I make a podcast about it. Maybe you’re radical and you’ve heard it once, or perhaps you should quit being an idiot and tune into the truth about life. Suffice to say, whether you believe it or not, I am a critic, and as such it is the holy charge entrusted to me by Apollo to tell you about movies. I will not tell you how to feel, but I am uniquely qualified to quantify your opinion and tell you where you fall on the grey slide rule of rightness and dumbness.
So sit down and shut up and let me talk for a minute. Today’s lesson is on the Cult Hit John Dies At The End. You may be asking yourself “Self, how does this trumped up jackanape know this is a cult film if it just came out? Does it not take time to establish a cult following?” Speaking as an aspiring leader of such, yes. Yes it does. Though this movie has all the hallmarks of a cult hit sewn into the lining of its underpants. Firstly it is adapted from an horror comedy novel of great notoriety (on the internet) written by Jason Pargin. Secondly the adaptation was written by Don Coscarelli, if you don’t know who that is you may be like me: terrible with names but good with faces and boobs. So let me relate that information in a different way. Perhaps as a list: Phantasm, The Beastmaster, and Bubba Ho-Tep. If you don’t know what I am talking about now, take a moment to continue shutting up and slap yourself once or twice.
Now that we have laid the stage you should already be excited to see this movie. John Dies At The End follows two friends the aforementioned John Cheeseman, of the previously mentioned impending mortal peril, and David Wong. Through a serious of coincidences, or the divine will of the universe, John and Dave become exposed to a mysterious substance that is probably drugs and may also be sentient, that they call “the Soy Sauce”. The story unfolds through the classic method of one of the tales participants relating it to a skeptical reporter. I love this movie. It is easily my favorite film of the year and most likely to attain a spot on my Top 17 Films Of All Time list. All at once, it is a Slacker Comedy, Supernatural Detective, Sci-Fi Supernatural Horror, occasionally touching on one of those weird philosophically navel gazing films that I normally dislike unless I am chemically inclined to philosophical navel gazing. Speaking of chemical inclinations, both John and Dave manage to stumble through the movie with the amiable grace of the pleasantly buzzed, accepting the bizarre nature of their adventures with only the cursory amount of resistance.
The practical effects employed through most all of the movie lend to the general campiness of it and immediately serve as a connection to the Cult Films of bygone years. It creates the feeling of having seen this movie before and liking it even though you haven’t. The pacing is brisk and the running time of 99 minutes helps keep this tied up neatly as it could have easily spiraled down and number of tangents mentioned throughout and collapsed under its own weight. A dozen years ago this would have been the kind of movie that was passed around on a beat up VHS that you gathered everyone you knew to sit down and watch in your basement. Now, thanks to technology, you can watch it through your favorite On Demand video service and I will be forever alone.
This soap box is higher than my couch…I am getting dizzy and my leg is cramping, so let’s wrap this up in a fun bundle, as this may or may not have been the most ham handed and shameless ego stroking the internet has seen in the past five minutes. Right now your burning question is probably “Why?” and the answer is simply “Because, God damn you.” This movie is full to bursting with all of the things that make for a great movie to watch by yourself or while you hang out with your friends. If you are a fan of the cult film you will easily be a fan of this and the fact that it is just so damn quotable means you will have a few new catch phrases with which to pepper all your social interactions.
Matthew Lockwood, Esquire is one of the venerable co-hosts of Movieha: Omaha’s Movie Podcast and one of the writers/co-creators of the unbearably delightful webcomic Good Plus. Hasn’t he done enough?