John Dies At The End - London Film Festival

John Dies At The End – London Film Festival


Based on the cult book by editor, David Wong and directed
by Don Cascorelli of Phantasm and Bubba Ho Tep fame, this was a film that
(unsurprisingly) led the first Midnight Screening ‘Cult Film’ section of the
London Film Festival. Based solely on the credentials of those involved it would
be near impossible to think of a film better suited to begin this series and it
becomes readily apparent within the first 2 minutes that this is a film that
defines what ‘cult cinema’ actually is.

I suspect that Cascorelli had a particularly fun (if not at all easy) time translating
the frenetic staging and pacing of Wong’s book for the screen. A tome so full of
ideas it practically changes genre every 5 minutes (at most!), Cascorelli has kept
the energy and charge in his adaptation, and rightfully so.
Telling the story of John and Dave’s adventures in supernatural policing through
a voice over interview with writer Paul Giammati (also serving as the films
producer), the narrative flickers between the past, present and future… and the
present’s past present (etc…) so quickly that it should probably come with an
epilepsy warning. Just when you think you’ve understood what is going on the
rug is once again pulled from beneath your feet – a shame really; it really tied the
room together.

This is never once confusing and every door-handle penis and deadly flying
moustache simply adds to the films sense of fantastical wit. Of course, this does
come with its drawbacks. With the exception of Giammati, the no-name cast
only just holds the film together and the film feels like it was made cheaply and
quickly. Now for true cult films this matter not – the cheaper the better – but in
this instance, with someone like Cascorelli at the helm, one would hope that he
might be able to use at least the camera in a slightly more basic way. There are
some great sequences (the opening paradox being a notable standout) but the
majority of the film is shot using over-the-shoulder coverage and awkwardly
tight framing. The digital image is sharp and is undoubtedly the biggest
contributor to this films production value, however this means nothing when a
simple two-shot isn’t even present.

One could also argue that the pace and way-out-there oddness of this picture
does not allow you to care about the characters, however, given that the film is
made by a cult genius for a cult audience, I suspect this matters little. What you
are left with is a shockingly original, very funny and (above all) crazy little film
that is going to be playing midnight screenings until the day the world ends.
Whether John will make it that far remains to be seen.

Oh, and the twist at the end is killer.


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