John Dies at the End

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
John Dies at the End Movie Poster Image
Oddball horror/fantasy has gore, fake drugs, monsters.
  • R
  • 2013
  • 99 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 5 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

This movie is so bizarre and off-kilter that it's difficult to know which end is up, much less whether anyone learns anything or has any kind of take-way. But on the whole, the main characters appear to indulge in drugs (perhaps inadvertently) and violence with little or no consequences.

Positive Role Models & Representations

No one should emulate these characters: They take a strange new street drug and become involved with scary creatures, violence, weapons, dangerous missions, and other misadventures.

Violence

Lots of bizarre fantasy violence and scary creatures (though the special effects aren't exactly state of the art). A zombie's head is severed, a squirmy creature is chopped to pieces, a girl turns into snakes, a man's arm is torn off, a teen is shot in the head, a man's eyeballs burst, etc. And there's an even gorier animated sequence in which innocent victims (including children) are captured and ripped apart, leaving a canyon full of bloody entrails. Also guns and shooting, as well as a variety of other disturbing, bloody, and/or gory scenes.

Sex

Toward the movie's final stretch, a scene shows a large group of topless women wearing masks. They're shown at great length over the next few minutes. In an earlier scene, a fake penis briefly appears where a doorknob should be. Some brief kissing.

Language

Language comes in fits and starts. In some scenes it's like a torrent, and then it quiets down for long stretches. "F--k" and "s--t" are used many times. "A--hole," "dick," "bastard," "dumb ass," "damned," "penis," "motherf---er," "crap," "hell," "c--k," and the "N" word are also used.

Consumerism

The movie comes up with fake brands when needed.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The movie is about a fake drug, dubbed "soy sauce," that has scary side effects. (The drug may actually be a living creature from another dimension.) Many characters -- either older teens or early twentysomethings -- take the drug willingly, but the main character only takes it accidentally (a needle in his pocket jabs him). Addiction isn't discussed, but withdrawing is an issue. Characters drink beer at a party.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that John Dies at the End is a horror/fantasy movie from cult director Don Coscarelli (Phantasm, Bubba Ho-Tep) that's based on a 2007 cult novel by David Wong. It's an endlessly trippy, oddball experience about a fictitious street drug called "soy sauce" that lets users "see" things. Side effects and withdrawal from the drug are discussed. Bloody, gory fantasy violence is a major issue, with severed limbs, exploding eyes, strange creatures, guns and shooting, and ripped-up body parts (victims include children). Language is also very strong, with occasional torrents of "f--k" and "s--t," as well as other offensive terms. During one climactic sequence, the movie shows a huge group of topless (masked) women, lingering on them for several minutes. This is the kind of underground movie that certain teens won't be able to resist.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMichael R. August 10, 2017

Homoerotic, pro-drug, bullying spree.

I wrote a 2 page review on this but my phone crashed . The review title covers my main concerns. Contrary to other reviews : There is excessive nudity but no... Continue reading
Adult Written bypirateman June 27, 2014

A Fun movie

This movie was not only funny but perfectly okay for children wanting to see a grown up movie. So if you have a 12 year old I recommend this!
Kid, 10 years old May 17, 2013

Bad but really good!

Definetly gory movie Nutidy Language And plenty of horror\gore violence
Kid, 10 years old March 11, 2013

Good but Scary

I've never seen this movie but people say it's the best!

What's the story?

After a prologue in which a zombie is beheaded and an axe is repaired, David Wong (Chase Williamson) speaks to a reporter (Paul Giamatti) in a Chinese restaurant, documenting his strange story. David's friend John (Rob Mayes) has taken a new street drug called "soy sauce" that lets users see and know things -- but they also experience fearsome side effects like creepy monsters. John frantically calls David for help, and David accidentally takes the drug, too. This sends them both on a crazy adventure that involves a professional magician (Clancy Brown), a lost dog, and a giant creature from another dimension that may be looking to take over the Earth. Are David and John up to the challenge? And will John really die at the end?

Is it any good?

Viewers who can give up all their preconceived notions and go along for this wild ride will have a fun, memorable time -- as long as they're ready for the extremely mature content. Cult director Don Coscarelli -- maker of the Phantasm series and Bubba Ho-Tep -- usually brings unhinged imagination and bizarre humor to his horror movies, which probably leads viewers into not taking him very seriously. JOHN DIES AT THE END doesn't change that at all. It's a loony, oddball, trippy, clumsy, illogical, outlandish, gory slice of "what the heck is going on?" with distant echoes of Brazil, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Naked Lunch, and other films of that ilk.

The movie's detractors so far have focused on the approach to adapting of the novel, the sub-par visual effects, and the idea that the film fails to keep up its level of craziness: It's either too crazy or not crazy enough, according to different critics. But all of this misses what's actually there in the movie; it establishes during the "riddle" of the first two minutes that nothing can be nailed down or relied upon.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about John Dies at the End's bloody, gory, over-the-top violence. What effect does it have? Does the movie cross the line? If so, where/how?

  • Would you consider this a horror movie? Is it scary? Which parts are scary as opposed to funny?

  • What does it mean to be a "cult" movie or novel? What's the appeal of this strange, off-kilter style of writing and filmmaking?

  • How much does it matter if John Dies at the End has a "logical" plot that can be easily followed? Can it be enjoyable otherwise?

Movie details

For kids who love offbeat movies

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