When David Wong's novel, John Dies at the End, hit shelves back in 2007 it was a huge success thanks in large to its bizarre plot, witty dialogue and relatable characters.
Among the fans of the novel was famed horror director Don Coscarelli, who optioned the rights shortly after reading the book in 2007 and was finally able to get the film under production in 2010. Though the film had a limited theatrical release, it has gone on to be considered a cult film by many, including Variety and Wired magazines.
Let's take a moment to look at why the film works and how it's earned its cult status:
1. The plot is pretty faithful.
Granted, the filmmakers had to take some liberties with the story in order to fit it into an hour-and-a-half long movie. But even after changing some big things, they keep most of the core plot elements, including a sequence in which a doorknob transforms into a penis.
2. The casting choices were perfect.
A lot of novel adaptations fall victim to miscasting due to the attempt at making the characters look beautiful or attractive to draw in more audiences. Thankfully with JDatE, the casting choices were based on their performances over their looks.
Lead actors Chase Williamson and Rob Mayes portray Dave and John with such perfection, we almost get the sense that's who they really are. Along with their performances, they even look a lot like the way they are described in the novel, adding to the success of their casting.
Even many of the supporting characters look and act a lot like their book counterparts, especially Detective Lawrence "Morgan Freeman" Appleton (Glynn Turman) and Arnie Blondestone (Paul Giamatti).
3. The [Spoiler] isn't really a [spoiler].
Many of my friends that I try to convince to watch this film feel there's no need, deeming the title the answer to the movie. For those of you reading this article now and having the same thought, please remove this from your brain.
Does John die? Yes. But does he die at the end? No...in the middle...and he doesn't stay dead. The movie perfectly portrays the title character's death and how events play out until we see him again.
Now this is more of a positive aspect of both the book and the film, as it offers a little twist from what audiences expect going into it.
4. It's Paul Giamatti!
I don't know about you readers, but I think Paul Giamatti is one of the finest middle age actors still working due to his range, able to go from being an evil Hollywood movie producer in Big Fat Liar to a convincingly depressed drunk in Sideways. He continues to showcase his talents with the character of Arnie Blondestone.
He brings the right amount of skepticism to the character, as well as a lot of humor and intensity to the role. Even if he's only in it for less than half the movie, he plays a pretty pivotal role and does it with strength.
5. Don Coscarelli's got the reigns.
Horror legend Don Coscarelli has been known for his classic Phantasm franchise and for the wildly hilarious Bubba Ho-Tep, so when the news first came out that he was writing and directing the screen adaptation of JDatE, fans rejoiced knowing he would bring his horror-comedy blending skills to the project.
He did so with an incredible amount of style and flair, which helped to bring the novel to life with vibrant colors, illustrating some of the truly bizarre images well, including the iconic meat monster.
Watch John Dies at the End on Netflix and Amazon Prime.