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Reviewed by Joe O'Connell, March 16, 2012, Screens

John Dies at the End

D: Don Coscarelli; with Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Paul Giamatti, Clancy Brown

Don Coscarelli's 2002 film, Bubba Ho-Tep, marked a major shift for the creator of the Phantasm series. Sure, it's got an evil mummy, but Bubba was more quirky and funny than scary. Now, a decade later, Coscarelli's topped himself with John Dies at the End, which begs to be compared to something, anything. Ghostbusters? Sure, two wisecracking twentysomethings hunt otherworldly creepies. Pulp Fiction? The dialogue and plot structure certainly rival Quentin Tarantino's best. Adventures in Babysitting? Why not. The truth is Coscarelli has adapted David Wong's book into a singularly slick, otherworldly adventure tale about two guys who take a drug known as soy sauce that gives them psychic powers while unleashing alien baddies intent on destroying the world. Told in a disjointed flashback, the film is funny, well-acted, slickly made, sometimes confusing, and sometimes mystical, but always engaging. Coscarelli said the version screened at South by Southwest included edits and better effects than the cut at its Sundance premiere. It's odd to predict a career-changer for a director who's been at it since the Seventies, but don't be surprised if John comes alive for an audience well beyond diehard genre fans.

Thursday, March 15, 11:59pm, Alamo Ritz

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