R (bloody violence, gore, nudity, strong language, drug content); 99 min.
John Dies at the End is a horror-comedy that scores more points for trippiness than it does for truth in title advertising.
Before it trips over its own overly complex plot, before the comic leads have exhausted their modestly amusing repertoires, this odd stoner/sci-fi creature feature blows out of the gate and threatens -- for about 30 minutes -- to blow your mind.
Then it doesn't.
John's pal, David Wong (Chase Williamson), looks nothing like a David Wong. A reporter (Paul Giamatti) notices this. Dave "had my last name changed" to help him hide out. Dave has reason to lay low. And the tale he narrates to the mildly incredulous reporter is a doozy. Dave's pal, the elusive John (Rob Mayes), stumbled into a drug that looks like soy sauce. "The Sauce," which you have to inject, lets the user travel through space and time, to another dimension.
But when the users come back, many of them aren't human. They're squishy beasties of various shapes and forms, and they're up to no good.
The only other person hip to what John seems to have found out is this mysterious TV mentalist (Clancy Brown, wacky and cast against type). If only he can get in touch with him.
The supporting cast -- Giamatti, Brown and Glynn Turman as a curious cop -- give us characters worth chewing on. But the leads simply aren't wacky enough to make Bill & Ted's Cronenberg Adventure come off. The middle acts bog down as writer-director Don Coscarelli tosses in animation and a dose of Eyes Wide Shut-masked nudity to maintain that trippy tone.
Exclusive: The Texas Theatre, Dallas
-- Roger Moore, McClatchy-Tribune News Service