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Director scores with a trippy, unpredictable film

April 18, 2013 |

Chase Williamson copes with the aftermath of "the soy sauce," the mysterious drug that changes his life in "John Dies at the End."
Reminder Publications submitted photo

By G. Michael Dobbs news@thereminder.com One of my favorite low budget directors comes out with a trippy new film and an Oscar winner makes it to home video.
John Dies at the End
I doubt that many people reading this column have heard of director and writer Don Coscarelli. He has had a rather limited output and has only directed 10 films since 1979. He is best known for the "Phantasm" series, a group of four films that center on entities from a mysterious dimension trying to break through and take over earth. The films featured some dramatic imagery and made a minor cult star out of Angus Scrimm. They were also quite commercially successful. Coscarelli really came into the greater awareness of mainstream movie fans with his 2002 film "Bubba Ho-Tep," a gleefully outrageous horror farce. Bruce Campbell played the "real" Elvis Presley, now aged and confined to a nursing home where no one believes he is actually Elvis. He has only one friend, an elderly African American man who insists that he is actually President John F. Kennedy — played by Ossie Davis — and the pair battle an evil ancient Egyptian entity who is killing their fellow residents. Wow. I loved it. Now, Coscarelli has delivered a film that is both visually arresting and narratively intriguing. Chase Williamson plays Dave, an average guy who has a far from average life. As he speaks to a skeptical reporter (played with squirmy gusto by Paul Giamatti), he recounts how he and his friend John (Rob Mayes) have become specialists in battling evil from other dimensions. John had taken what he thought was a recreational drug, but turned out to be a living thing that gives a person increased perceptions. It bends time and space as well. Dave accidentally injects some of the drug into him and the two men begin a reluctant quest to save this word from another parallel earth that wishes to invade. Coscarelli has a lot of fun leading his viewers down a dimensional wormhole. His biggest flaw as a director is being weaker on story than he is on the visual aspects of a film and there are times when you might want to pause the DVD just to ponder what is going on. Since this film deals with altered realities, the confusion at times seems to make sense. Dave is in a state of shock at what he is experiencing and as a viewer you'll certainly have that emotion. I really liked this film because it is truly something different. In this era of big Hollywood remakes and re-packaging, it's always refreshing to watch something truly original. This is bound to be at the Red Box near you and if you are an adventurous movie lover, try it. Disclaimer: Be warned there are some moments of gore that might shock you a bit; this isn't a film for kids.
Django Unchained
Much has been written about director and writer Quentin Tarantino's latest revisionist historical film, the most recent is the fact that Chinese authorities have apparently banned the theatrical release of the movie. Apparently the theme of a "peasant uprising" upset some Chinese censors. The film features a story of a freed slave (Jamie Foxx) who becomes a bounty hunter as a way to finance his efforts to find and rescue his wife in the South in 1858. With the film's release on home video, I'm sure that many people who resisted the film's theatrical run will want to experience it, especially after its two Oscar wins for Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Screenplay. For me, there are two types of Tarantino films: those that are tightly written and directed and those where Tarantino is an undisciplined movie fanboy. In the first group are "Reservoir Dogs "Pulp Fiction, "Jackie Brown" and "Inglourious Basterds." This film falls in the second group along with the two "Kill Bill" films. While not as self-indulgent as the "Kill Bill" films, "Django" is very uneven and has several key moments that undercut the serious side of the story. While it does have much to offer — Christoph Waltz is amazing — this film is sloppier than it should be. But of course this is a minority opinion about a film that has won awards and performed well at the box office. I'm still allowed not to like it as much as others and you might not either.

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