"Kill Me Now" and "John Dies At The End" Movie Reviews
The Connection Between The Two Films
"Kill Me Now" and "John Dies At The End" are two separate films by separate writers, directors, actors; the whole shebang. They are connected, however, by the comedy website juggernaut that is, Cracked.com. "Kill Me Now" is written by and stars Cracked's Head of Video Production, Michael Swaim and "JDatE" is based on the novel of the same name by David Wong, senior editor for Cracked.
Kill Me Now
I saw "Kill Me Now" early in December in Los Angeles at a screening with most of the cast and crew. I went in already biased because Michael Swaim is one of my favorite writers and comedy actors, so I just knew the movie was going to be hilarious. It was. It was exactly what I hoped for-- a warm crispy piece of comedy toast with Swaim's unique humor butter smeared all over it. Enjoy that visual.
Directed by Travis Long, the film tells a rather typical horror tale of dumb teens partying and being stalked by a deranged killer. However, this is also a comedy, so the entire plot is played out very tongue-in-cheek. Mr. Swaim said at the Q&A that he just watched a bunch of bad horror flicks and parodied all the formulaic patterns he noticed. He also threw in a bear for a bit of cinematic "WTFness."
My only complaints are that there is a severe lack of any real suspense and the key to a masterful horror-comedy is finding a perfect balance between jokes and scaring the bejesus out of your audience. Great examples of such achievements would be "Shaun of the Dead" and "Evil Dead 2." Here the scales tip a bit too much into the humorous side leaving the fear side sorely lacking. I also took slight issue with how certain characters reacted to things. It seemed a bit too unrealistic, even by slasher flick standards. These are petty gripes at best, and a low budget debut film is bound to have some flaws. I've no doubt that if Swaim and Co. make another film it will be more polished.
On to the acting. There are 3 stand-out performances: Dennis (Michael Swaim), the affable party guy trying desperately to have a good time although he is an unpopular nerd in the eyes of the cool kids. Swaim's Dennis gets some great jokes early on but then the torch gets passed to Doug (Noah Byrne), the archetypal stoner dude who Byrne clearly has a lot of fun with. At the screening it was clear among the crowd that Doug stole the movie. If nothing else, see the movie for Doug. Finally, there's Todd (Beck Bennett), the ever-present jock dickweed. The jock is usually the character everyone hates the most and Todd is no different, however Bennett plays him so much like a caricature that he's actually tolerable and really funny in a you're-funny-but-I-still-want-to-hit-you kind of way.
Everyone else plays their parts well enough, but those are the 3 I felt were the best. Plus, Katy Stoll and Lisa Marie King make for some sweet eye-candy.
FINAL SCORE: 18 out of 20 Rabbis Lost in a Seedy Neighborhood
John Dies At The End
Based on the book of the same name, "John Dies At The End" is hard to describe. It's batshit insane for starters, and insanely original as well. It has elements of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," "Naked Lunch," and a bit of "Men In Black."
As best I can explain, the plot revolves around the main character, David (Chase Williamson) telling his story to reporter Arnie (Paul Giamatti, at his most delightful Giamattiest). David's story involves a powerful new drug dubbed "Soy Sauce" that gives the user an incredibly heightened and warped sense of reality, time, and space as well as abilities involving altered perception and......the movie is just damn trippy, okay? There's creatures made of meat byproducts, girls that explode into snakes, alternative universes, exploding eyeballs, and psychic bratwurst telephones.
Like I said, it's hard to explain.
The movie is directed by legendary horror/cult director, Don Coscarelli (Phantasm, Beastmaster, Bubba Ho-Tep) and he is in top form here, no doubt. The movie follows the book very closely with only a few changes here and there.
Now, the movie does seem a bit slapped together at times and I feel that it could have been better if they didn't follow the book so closely, which sounds odd, but hear me out:
Many lines in the movie are taken directly from the book, and when delivered in the book they have a more organic feel to them thanks to the added exposition in the narration. In the movie, they feel haphazardly tossed out verbally, without enough context or through bad delivery, which brings me to the acting...
I had a problem watching the two leads. David and the titular John (Rob Mayes) weren't cast all that well. Williamson and Mayes aren't all that great and their lines are delivered flat and lazily. Williamson seems to be in a constant state of surprise that he was even given the role and Mayes is trying too hard to be aloof and likeable. At times, his performance just seems a bit "Keanu Reeves-as-Ted-Theodore-Logan." The movie isn't completely ruined by them, I just think better actors could have been chosen. Paul Giamatti is excellent here as the curious, yet skeptical Arnie Blondestone who is struggling to come to terms with David's incredible story and Glynn Turman, who plays the unnamed detective (in the book, David can't remember his name and refers to him as "Morgan Freeman," because that's whom he reminds him of.) is another highlight of the movie, with a great "controlled chaos" performance and some sharply delivered lines (Standing casually ready to torch a trailer home, he drolly states "I suppose you're wondering what I'm doing with this can of gasoline.")
If you can, read the book first so when you hear the same lines spoken in the movie, they will carry a bit more comedic relevance with them. Either way, "JDatE" will require more than one viewing to sort everything out, which, in cases of acid-trip movies like this, is a good thing.
Have fun sleeping after watching it though.
FINAL SCORE: 15 out of 20 drunken monkeys .
"John Dies At The End" is currently available Netflix