John Dies at the End, which is director Don Coscarelli‘s take on the wacky, cult novel by David Wong, is incredibly entertaining for the sake of being entertaining. Featuring huge monsters, metaphysical conversations, pop culture-based humor, hilarious performances and big action scenes with flame throwers, explosions, and bullet time, you’d be hard pressed to be bored by the picture. Unfortunately, all of that promise and entertainment value feels wasted because the film has very little to say, and is capped with a slightly disappointing payoff.

John Dies at the End comes on demand December 27 and in theaters January 26, but recently screed at the AFI Fest presented by Audi. Read more below.

There’s never a moment in John Dies at the End where you know what’s coming up next. Surprises are, quite literally at points, around every corner. The story focuses on two friends, Dave (Chase Williamson) and John (Rob Mayes), who take a drug called “soy sauce,” and become inter-dimensional warriors fighting against evil.

Awesome concept, right? It is, but after film starts with that, the narrative jumps back in time to explains how we got to that opening point. All of the backstory is interesting and relevant, considering the wacky premise, but the crescendo of the film’s mystery never quite peaks.

Coscarelli does keep constantly building suspense as questions about the characters and their situation are posed. While the film never slows, the satisfaction it delivers doesn’t come close to matching the sense of anticipation created early on. Things fit together pretty well, and the coda is solid, but the movie never fully decides why it is what it is. It’s fun, and has its moments, but feels slight considering how invested we become with the crazy narrative and set-up.

/Film rating: 6 out of 10

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About the Author

Germain graduated NYU's Tisch School of the Arts Cinema Studies program in 2002 and won back to back First Place awards for film criticism from the New York State Associated Press in 2006 and 2007.

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