What's the Deal With 'John Dies at the End'?

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Years before I ever gassed up my rocket and launched to Planet Fanboy, I lived on Planet Undergrad. While there, some no-good kids with neon green hair (it was the 1990s) gave me some poisoned pizza toppings and it made the music all echoey and I walked like I just stepped out of the Mystery Machine.

As the night turned to dawn, someone slipped in a VHS tape (oy) of a movie called “Phantasm” and I swear to you it took a little bit of my sanity with it. It ends with our main character dragged through a portal to a fiery alternate universe with freakish dwarves, diabolical tall men and silver spheres that fly around and drill into peoples' heads. After that, there's this other strange scene played out where my friends are telling me to breathe into a paper bag, playing a a CD of rainwater hitting a metal roof and just repeating “chill, chill, chill.”

“Phantasm”'s director Don Coscarelli has never chilled. His newest film is “John Dies At The End” and it ups the ante on tripped-out weirdness to an exponential degree. “John Dies At The End” (or “JDATE,” which is funny to single Jewish people) is the chopped, diced, sauteed and fricasseed narrative of the strikingly non-Asian David Wong and his pal John as they battle the forces of evil beyond time and space (and life and death) in a big, fat juicy wet kiss of a midnight movie. It is currently available On Demand and you and your pals should drop everything and order it tonight at 11:59.

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Since the title itself crushes all spoiler warnings, here are some of the things you can look forward to in “JDATE.” For starters, it offers a hypothetical question. If you kill someone with an axe, but later the handle splits and is replaced, then afterwards the blade chips and is replaced, is it the same axe? It's certainly a philosophical conundrum, but nothing you can worry about when an undead ghoul looking for vengeance is chasing after you.

This blend of far out humor and blah-boogity-boogity horror is, what can I say, a soothing melody for my soul. Every whacked-out sequence in “JDATE,” from the hypodermic-injected liquid gateway to other worlds known only as “soy sauce” to the freezer full of foodstuffs that turns into a stop-motion meat monster, were pure hits of pleasure to both my goofy and heavy sides of my mind. Quite frankly, I can't recall a film that has done so with such unfettered verve in quite some time.

Which doesn't mean that “JDATE” makes a whole lot of sense. It's a joyride, a film based off of a Web 1.0 story that was published in stages on the Internet, and features appearances by Paul Giamatti, Clancy Brown and, yes, “Phantasm's” Tall Guy Angus Scrimm.

But if one of your friends is the type that expects movies to have a clear beginning, middle and end, perhaps it is best to let them stay home. Unless you are willing to try the soy sauce, “JDATE” can be frustrating. I mean, at around the 1 hour mark you may find yourself asking “when is this movie going to start?” You'll know it is near the end when our heroes fight a giant Cthulu-like beast. And when, you know, John dies. Enjoy.

Note: Planet Fanboy will be on a mini-hiatus as we orbit around Park City, Utah for the annual Sundance Film Festival. Check back in two weeks!

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