Movie review: John Dies at the End

From the February 14, 2013 edition

The genre-hopping mayhem of “John Dies at the End” would probably be a hell of lot of fun in the right circumstances — namely, the sleep-deprived section of an all-night movie marathon.

Only when the brain starts playing tricks on itself would the incoherence of this film start to take on a certain charm. Under other circumstances, the phrase “hot mess” comes to mind.

The twisty, surreal plot really defies description, but it involves a hallucinogenic drug known as “Soy Sauce” that sends users across time and dimensions. Oh, and it’s also kind of a gateway to an alien invasion. Or something.

Cult director Don Coscarelli (“Bubba Ho-Tep,” “Phantasm”), working from the cult novel of the same name, goes out of his way to make sure viewers will be a near-constant “WTF?” state. The surreal visuals are reminiscent of David Cronenberg’s “Naked Lunch,” and there’s enough campy gore to sate fans.

Attempts at black humor generally fail — in no small part because most of the cast is a dud. Attempts at following plot completely fail, as twists and layers pile on.

If you want a nerdy comparison, I’d liken it to Richard Kelly’s ill-fated “Donny Darko” follow-up “Southland Tales.” It may be worth viewing if you’ve been up all night on truck-stop speed, though.