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“John Dies at the End” is a streamlined, condensed version of the popular novel of the same name.
The novel “John Dies at the End” was originally a web serial published in 2001. Thomas Dunne Books published it as a hardcover with additional materials in 2009. It’s a convoluted, complicated novel with a lot of characters and events going on. It’s an incredibly offensive book, a harmful book, liberally studded with racism, sexism, homophobia, and ablism like preserved fruits in a holiday cake. Its sequel, “This Book is Full Of Spiders,” has less harmful content, although it’s still present (and frankly the entire book exists to set up a massive dick joke). It’s an interesting book, if one can get past the nauseating, casual hate, and I enjoyed the story about two losers who fuck up their lives and manage to save the world kind of sort of. I was looking forward to the movie, but wasn’t able to see it in the theater.
At a little over 90 minutes, “John Dies at the End” is a condensed, simplified version of the story. Several characters were combined and Amy Sullivan’s story arc is severely truncated (although she also has more of a presence, earlier). What works in a novel won’t necessarily work in a movie, and the script absolutely plays to a movie’s strengths without adhering too closely to the novel. While the movie leaves out the brilliant use of music to annoy a ghost/demon, it does a fantastic job portraying the turkey-headed meat monster that menaces the main characters. Bafflingly, the female Irish Setter “Molly” is changed into a male Shiba Inu (?? or some other breed??) named Bark Lee.
The acting in the movie is excellent. Most of it is extremely understated and low key, a sense of resignation underpinning everything. The high points of terror and hysteria are more of a contrast, deliver more of a punch. David and John are fairly boring loser slackers who fumble their way through life, often drunk, who are thrust into extraordinary situations and circumstances which they mostly fuck up in very human ways. In both novel and movie, the world is saved not by them, but by a dog.
If you’re a fan of dark comedy and horror (two great tastes that etc), absolutely give this movie a shot. It made me want to re-read the book, which has a lot more going on. Be warned that when Korrock appears, he launches into a bit of a diatribe about “big Black cocks,” a remnant of the racism and homophobia from the novel. There’s a few other penis-related gags in the movie that stick out oddly as well, but again, trace their origin to the book. I enjoyed the book this movie is based on, so I was primed to enjoy the movie as well. But I think I would have liked it even without being a fan of the book.
I give this movie 4 out of 5 stars.
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