For the last month or so, the marketing team behind the film adaptation of David Wong’s John Dies at the End has been crushing it. They’ve been doing a lot of cool stuff for Facebook fans, like giving out posters and t-shirts, linking special trailers and promotions. They even put up little templates for papercraft characters! The latest effort is a great alternate poster (after the jump). After checking out the movie on VOD (out in theaters Jan. 25) I have to say, I wish this much effort had gone into the film itself.
Now, I’m usually the first to melvin a person for comparing an adaptation to the original work. It’s called an “adaptation” for a reason: it’s a different medium and therefore cannot be the exact same thing. Here’s the problem with JDatE: it’s not an adaptation. It’s a shoehorn. Director Don Coscarelli tried to preserve as much about the original material as he could, all while cramming it into a format that doesn’t fit. I honestly can’t speak to how the movie plays for non-fans of the book. For me, it felt half-hazardly stitched together.
It’s basically the book’s initial setup – played out almost verbatim – which slams awkwardly into the very end of the book’s third act. On top of this, you can feel Coscarelli including scenes and plot threads from the book simply because he liked them – many have no narrative place here. All of this might have been fine, but the main appeal of the novel (which also had a fairly lumpy narrative) was the tone. That balance of Douglas Adams-esque humor and Loveccraftian dread is missing here. And that cripples the whole enterprise.
I will give Coscarelli credit: It took massive cojones to adapt such a seemingly un-filmable book. I’m also curious to see what he could’ve done with the material on a bigger budget; this was clearly a shoestring situation. I’m still glad it got made – and I hope it does well – because we don’t get enough risks in Hollywood these days. As it stands, it feels like a more imaginative entry in the SyFy Original Movie catalog. But maybe I’m being too hard on it. There were a lot of gratuitous boobs. So there’s always that.