What was the most surreal, batsh– crazy aspect of John Dies at the End, the first movie in a decade from Bubba Ho-Tep director Don Coscarelli? Maybe it was the flying mustache that attacked our hero David (newcomer Chase Williamson). Or perhaps the scene where a doorknob turns into a huge penis? Maybe the creature with a turkey for a head and sausage links for fingers? Or was it the mere presence of Oscar nominated Actor Paul Giamatti, who costars and executive produces, in the midst of all this insanity?
“This is a movie that’s strange,” Coscarelli told the packed house at last night’s Park City at Midnight screening. “I guess the only way that I can describe it is that it’s about drugs. Now, is anyone out there familiar with drugs? We got the right crowd!”
Coscarelli, he of the cult Phantasm films, was built for Sundance’s special late-night showcase. “It’s fantastic that it’s here because it’s made by a guy who makes truly independent films — not just because they cost nothing to make but because he’s f—-ing demented and his vision is totally unique,” said Giamatti, who became a fan for life when “my sick bastard brother snuck me in [to Phantasm]…at 12 years old.”
In John Dies, Giamatti plays a journalist listening to David’s incredible story about a creature from a parallel dimension intent on conquering humanity through some creepy soy-sauce drug that quickly gets under its user’s skin. But the plot is…well, not really the point. “I really still don’t really know what’s happening in the movie,” said Rob Mayes (Jane by Design), who plays John of the title and David’s wingman in their battle against evil.
In the post-screening Q&A, the original book’s author, David Wong, explained his reasoning for the film’s manic energy and did-that-just-happen shocks. “It was like trying to write a 150,000-word novel for people who consider a 140-character tweet too much,” said Wong, who originally wrote the story as a web serial. “So there’s this really hyper-kinetic pace to it because the whole time I’m just thinking, all of my readers are like one click away from all the free porn they want.”
Coscarelli, who was looking for a project after his Bubba Ho-Tep sequel fell apart, became involved only after Amazon.com suggested he might like Wong’s book, based on his previous purchases. Who says those Amazon recommendations are useless?
John Dies and Coscarelli were made for each other, judging by the squeals and laughter from the admittedly target audience at the midnight screening. “I didn’t see a frame there that was selling out, that was refusing to take risks, that was trying to Hollywood-ize the story,” Wong said. “There’s still a doorknob that supernaturally turns into a penis. If that’s still in the movie, you know you’ve got a pretty faithful adaptation. Because there’s a lot of movies that don’t have that. I think it’s only one of four films at Sundance this year to have a penis-doorknob scene.”
Check out Adam B. Vary’s interview with Giamatti below: