In the realm of sci-fi-horror-comedy, the duo of Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell are a hard pair to top. Raimi's zany, monster-filled movies and Campbell's corny one-liners have dominated the genre since 1981's The Evil Dead.
Opens Fri., Feb. 22 at Varsity. Rated R. 99 minutes.
Director Don Coscarelli has been around just as long as Raimi (his Phantasm came out two years before The Evil Dead), though working to less acclaim. Much like his 2002 Bubba Ho-Tep (which coincidentally starred Campbell), John Dies at the End is a somewhat muddled story full of undead creatures and face-bending special effects. There's even a wooden-handed love interest, perhaps a nod to Campbell's Ash character in the Evil Dead trilogy.
As in David Wong's source novel, college dropouts David (a hammy Chase Williamson) and John (Rob Mayes) embark on a time-traveling quest to save humanity from a colony of parasitic spores that has invaded Earth. There's your plot, which allows Coscarelli to indulge his love of body-chomping aliens and oversized, Kafkaesque insects.
Dave and John have a Bill-and-Ted chemistry, only with more deadpan. (This to an alien: "Have you ever heard the old human expression, 'I want to shoot you so bad my dick's hard'?") Paul Giamatti's small role as a newspaper reporter contributes a trace of gravity to the messy story—then we find out that . . . well, let's just say things aren't what they seem. Per the title, some characters die, but death is never a final obstacle in a monster movie. Anyone/thing can be resurrected.
Clearly intended to be a wacky cult movie, John Dies falls short of the Raimi/Campbell standard. And with a Raimi-less Evil Dead reboot coming in April (with Diablo Cody one of its writers), Coscarelli's latest comedy will likely be overshadowed again, relegated to midnight-movie status.