John Dies at The End (2012)

John Dies at the End takes a little bit of “Euro Trip” and a little bit of “Naked Lunch” and sort of blends them together until you get a strange and funny mix. Darkly funny, a little bit low-brow at times, and usually really quite weird, this flick was destined to be labelled as a cult film. I liked it a lot, and I thought that the fantasy elements were often original and inventive while the plot moved along at a good clip.

It’s hard to even begin to describe the plot. Two young guys get involved in an alien drug that gives them telepathic and precognitive powers, and they must solve a murder mystery, prevent an invasion from an alternate dimension hell-bent on taking over our world, and fight off an evil cloud of parasitic dust mites. Sort of. It’s a bit more complicated than that.

Paul Giamatti and Clancy Brown have supporting roles that help give it a bit of legitimacy, but for the most part, the acting is on par for and sci-fi show you’d see on space or the WB. Twenty-something actors playing teenagers, and everyone in their age bracket is good-looking and fit.

One point of contention that I have with this movie is that the visual effects are often terrible. I mean that in the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season one terrible kind of way, and both the CGI and the puppetry/models looks silly and easily took you out of the trippy mind-set the plot was going for

The movie’s fun, and if you liked stuff like “Bubba Ho-Tep” or “A Scanner Darkly”, then this’ll be right up your alley. Strange, fun, and cheap. I give it 3 Fantastic Fours.


In The Realms of The Unreal (2004)

In the Realms of The Unreal is a documentary about Henry Darger, a janitor who wrote a fifteen-thousand page fantasy novel, accompanied by over 300 paintings, that were unpublished and only discovered in his room shortly before his death, examining his life and the delicate balance between artistic genius and insanity. The film is both interesting and disappointing in that it thoroughly examines the man and his work, but it also illustrates that while his creation was fascinating, that his passion to create equally so, ultimately his life was sad, lonely and endlessly routine. Sort of like “The Devil and Daniel Johnston”, but without the insane anecdotes about Sonic Youth and Nirvana.

The director, Jessica Wu, did fail to instill any sense of drama into Darger’s life, and made odd choices throughout the film. Splicing in news and videos about the city of Chicago, even though the city held little influence over Darger or his work was strange and seemed like she was trying to make a character of the setting for no real reason. Having numerous and varied voice actors to read from his books was confusing and again seemingly without explanation. Lastly, and this one really annoyed me, she interviewed a few people that had known the man, but only haphazardly explained who they were and what their relation to Darger even was

As a documentary, the movie serves to tell the story, but it doesn’t share the fantastic edge that Darger’s work should have inspired. I give it a “C” on the “When We Were Kings” scale of documentaries.