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Film / John Dies at the End

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My name is David Wong. I once saw a man's kidney grow tentacles, tear itself out of a ragged hole in his back, and go slapping across my kitchen floor. But that's another story.

John Dies at the End is the film adaptation of the book of the same name. It was written for the screen and directed by Don Coscarelli, whom you might know from The Beastmaster, Phantasm and Bubba Ho Tep. It stars Chase Williamson and Rob Mayes, with supporting performances by Paul Giamatti (who is also an Executive Producer), Doug Jones, and Clancy Brown.

Provides Examples Of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: How Dave gets the soy sauce forced onto him, and how he's found by "Morgan Freeman", are both shortened and changed. Likewise, The Stinger about John and Dave walking away from becoming another dimension's saviors, the appearance of the wig monsters, and what Marconi is are changed. A few characters and the trip to Las Vegas, as well as the cloning sub-plot, are removed. In fact, the film is really an adaptation of the beginning and end of the book, leaving out most of the middle altogether.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Amy is repeatedly described as a redhead in the books, while she's a brunette in the film. Most likely a consequence of being fused with Jennifer Lopez.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Molly the dog is changed to Bark Lee the dog in the film. Word of God states that this is because the best dog for the part was male. Also, John's last name is explicitly given as "John Cheese," while in the books his surname is All There in the Manual. Robert North in the book becomes Roger North in the film, presumably to keep viewers from confusing him with Robert Marley.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness:
    • In the book, David repeatedly describes himself as pudgy and out of shape, while in the film he has a healthy build.
    • John is described as a tall and skinny guy, while the actor in the film has the chiseled physique of a body builder.
    • Largeman's undressed cohorts in the book are described as mostly old and flabby. The actors cast in the movie are borderline Fanservice.
    • Dr. Marconi looks like any other psychic or ex-reverend in the book, but in the movie, he's far more debonair and suave, to the point he always has an entourage of women.
  • Adaptational Badass: Marconi in the book is a former globetrotting explorer and reverend turned to psychic medium, and while he's popular with the psychic crowd, he's not any bigger than any other "psychic" in Las Vegas. In the film, not only is he massively popular, he also displays karate skills, walks around with a entourage of beautiful ladies, manages to get his hands on a city-destroying weapon made of C4 and LSD that was made in the Cold War, and engineers the entire plan to defeat the villains. He also is way more invested in the plot - whereas his book version is busy travelling the world and fighting demons, here, he shows up in the shadow dimension, somehow having caught wind of the duo's plan to kill Korrok.
  • Affably Evil: The Large Man is very polite and seems to genuinely believe that David and John should feel honored to become one with Korrok.
  • Artifact Title: As with the book, John only "dies" partway through the story and gets better pretty quickly.
  • Art Shift: The educational film about Korrok's world breaks into a cartoon to portray a scene of mass destruction. It's obviously a budget-saving maneuver (the original scene depicted a miles-long trench of men, women, and children being maimed by Korrok's spiders), but The Large Man justifies it by saying that it will be easier for David and John to watch.
  • Asshole Victim: The little we see of Justin White before he gets taken over by Shitload is him being an asshole to Amy at the party.
  • Batter Up!: John gives David a baseball bat coated with Old Testament bible pages, with nails driven through the end.
  • The Cameo: Angus Scrimm, the Big Bad of Coscarelli's Phantasm series, appears as the priest David calls about an exorcism.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Fred Chu, who, in the novel, is a simple stoner slacker, tries hitting on Amy in the film and toasts to "all the kisses he's snatched, and vice versa."
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Amy's amputated hand and the discussion of phantom limb syndrome.
    • Robert Marley's bandaged hand.
  • Composite Character: While she's been Demoted to Extra, at least Amy gets extra screentime by absorbing Jennifer Lopez's role as well, being the Love Interest.
  • Compressed Adaptation: The book consists of the Prologue followed by descriptions of three separate incidents taking place months apart, all tied by a Framing Device. The film keep the Prologue and the Framing Device, but instead of cramming all into one movie, faithfully adapts the first act, but gives it the ending of the third.
  • Dead All Along: Arnie Blondestone.
  • Deadpan Snarker: David. John, too, to a lesser extent.
  • Demoted to Extra: Amy, despite being a Composite Character. The heroes spend a good portion of the book looking for her, protecting her, and getting to know her. Jennifer Lopez (whose role she takes from the book) is a major character in Part One. However, in the film she is really only important in opening the shadow door in the mall.
  • Everybody Must Get Stoned: This turns out to be the reason most of the people who took the Soy Sauce got murdered - they all gathered (except John and Dave) to go get stoned. Instead, they get gruesomely torn apart, or, in the case of Justin, infected.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Compared to his book version, who sounded like a toddler touring with Limp Bizkit, Korrok sounds like Morgan Freeman on the opposite of helium... but still just as childish.
  • Eye Scream: Detective Appleton's eyes bulge out of his head and explode all over the windshield of the car he is driving just as he starts to tell David and the other Soy Sauce survivors about "piercing voices" in his head.
  • Fanservice: Attempted by the entourage of topless women that come to meet John and Dave in the alternate dimension, but the freaky masks make the scene trip over Fanservice and fall into the Uncanny Valley, especially as they're implied (and stated in the book) to be horrifically deformed underneath the masks.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Dave asks Arnie "are you my father?" and Arnie laughs. Makes enough sense at that moment, but The Reveal that Arnie was a black man and doesn't yet realize he's dead, and is based off what Dave expected him to look like, an old white journalist makes this especially telling.
    • Detective Appleton's fate of being dead, but that they Never Found The Body, is foreshadowed by Dave saying that Arnie won't find him.
  • Gorn: Notably not as present as the book, but still there: the horrifying pictures Appleton gives Dave during his interrogation that used to be the other people who took the soy sauce, and Appleton's eyes exploding.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Bark Lee, who activates the bomb, picks it up and dives at Korrok.
  • Mushroom Samba: Soy sauce allows its user to perceive other realities in an extremely trippy fashion. The lucky ones don't explode into bloody chunks afterwards. The really lucky ones don't even get taken over by a cloud of extradimensional parasites.
  • Orphaned Setup: A variation. The subplot with Monster Dave was completely removed, which was what the riddle at the beginning of the film foreshadowed.
  • Manly Facial Hair: So manly, it rips itself off its owner's upper lip and flaps around the room like a rabid bat.
  • Non-Indicative Name: John doesn't die at the end.
  • Phone Call from the Dead: After John dies at the police station, he is able to contact Dave due to his exposure to the soy sauce. At first he uses a (broken) cell phone, but then switches to a bratwurst that Dave is instructed to talk into as if it is a phone.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Amy is given a prosthetic hand for most of her screentime to make her easier to film without special effects.
  • Private Eye Monologue: The film preserves Dave's narration as such.
  • Running Gag: Severed limbs. In addition to Amy's missing hand, John's band "Three Arm Sally" has a logo consisting of three severed arms, and the phantom cop who tries to strangle David has his arm ripped out of his socket - which continues to strangle David.
  • Shoe Phone: A Bratwurst Phone in this instance.
  • Shout-Out: When Dave attempts to interrogate Robert North after the latter suddenly appears in his car, he tries to scare him with "Have you ever heard of the phrase, 'I wanna shoot you so bad, my dick's hard'?"
  • Skewed Priorities: In Korrok's realm, Dr. Marconi makes it a point to still have his entourage with him as he hands over the device to kill Korrok.
  • Sliding Scale of Comedy and Horror: More comedy than horror.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Dr. Marconi's description of the Tripper:
    This is an experimental Cold War weapon designed to take down a city the size of Moscow. Contained within this detonator is a block of C-4 explosive, surrounded by a highly-potent military-grade hallucinogen. [...] Now the Tripper may not kill Korrok, but it will sure fuck his shit up. Severely.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: One of the more bizarre examples you’ll ever see. Because the clone subplot was completely Adapted Out, the David at the end of the movie is still the original David, not a Korrok Clone who’s pulled a Kill and Replace.
  • Theseus' Ship Paradox: The film opens with David beheading a body with an ax. However, the ax handle breaks and he gets the handle replaced. Later on, he chips the head killing a centipede... thing and gets the head replaced as well. Eventually, the guy he beheaded comes Back from the Dead, and the reanimated corpse points to the axe and says "that's the axe that slayed me," to which David poses the question to the viewer: "Is he right?"
  • Touch the Intangible: Amy has Phantom Limb Pain after losing a hand, still feeling like her limb is still there. Her phantom limb allows her to turn a phantom doorknob that cannot be seen, let alone touched by a normal hand.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: When Dave pukes early in the movie.