Movie fans will recognize the name Don Coscarelli – he wrote and directed on of the mainstays of horror films, Phantasm (1979). Coscarelli’s latest film John Dies at the End opens as a midnight attraction this weekend at the River Oaks Three.
Phantasm’s reputation was fueled to some extent by the advent of movie channels on cable in the ‘80s, on which it seemed to be on endless repeat. “Phantasm was sold as a horror film,” Coscarelli tells Free Press Houston in a phone interview adding, “But it was also fantasy and sci-fi.” Indeed the same mixture of genres permeates many of Coscarelli’s films including the multiple Phantasm sequels, Bubba Ho-Tep (2002), and now John Dies at the End.
“The source novel by David Wong crossed dimensions and genres as well,” Coscarelli notes. “When you mix genres like that the end result is not going to turn out as you expect.” JDATE keeps the audience guessing as the protag John (Rob Mayes) experiences inter-dimensional tripping when he uses a new street drug called soy sauce. Co-starring are Clancy Brown, Paul Giamatti (also executive producer), Doug Jones, Fabianne Therese, Chase Williamson and as a priest Phantasm’s Angus Scrimm.
The title credits use a graphic take off of soy sauce in an abstract manner. “A visual effects artist Derek Doi that bloodstream kind of effect by dripping black ink in a tank,” explains Coscarelli. JDATE has fun with its exposition, throwing in levitation and phantom limbs. Coscarelli adds that as a kid he had a magic kit.
John Dies at the End takes the viewer on a surreal ride as our hero fights to decipher what is hallucination and what is real. Even as John crosses parallel universes to confront a weird monster named Korrack, we’re always blindsided by the next unseen reality right down to the closing credits.
— Michael Bergeron