Cult Beat: John Dies at the End by David Wong
I love October in the blogosphere. Sure it may not have the same ring as Paris in the spring, but even for non horror sites, everybody seems to kick things up a notch in October. Things are no different here at Cult Beat. I’m going to be devoting October to four great horror books. Everything from old favorites to new, would-be classics. From the canon to some real obscure titles.
But I’m going to be ridiculously busy writing elsewhere as well. First, over at Things That Don’t Suck, I’ll be running my fourth annual 31 Days Of Horror marathon. I’m also going to be guesting for a few articles with my friends over at On The Stick for their own 31 Day Marathon. I’ll also be working to get some good stuff going at my horror blog Son Of Danse Macabre.
Last, but far from least, I would like to give a shout out to Bill Ryan’s 31 Days Of Slash over at The Kind Of Face You Hate. This is the fourth year that Mr. Ryan has run this series and in that time he has produced some of the best writing about the horror genre of which I know. More than any other, he’s responsible for expanding my horizons in my formerly narrow understanding of the genre. Beginner or expert you would do very well to check him out.
Solving the following riddle will reveal the awful secret behind the universe, assuming you do not go utterly mad in the attempt. If you already happen to know the awful secret behind the universe, feel free to skip ahead.
What’s It About?
As far as potential saviors of the universe go, you’d have to look awfully hard to find a pair more unlikely than David Wong and John Cheese. Two life-long friends, the twenty-something slackers set the definition for “wrong place at the wrong time” when they happen to be at the epicenter of the multiple disasters caused by a drug called Soy Sauce. Soy Sauce does a lot of nifty things; it gives you extra sensory powers, allows you to see into the future, to, within limits, alter the past, and it gives you psychic powers. It also allows vicious demons to use your body as a portal into our world and even on the off chance that it doesn’t kill you, it will alter your perception of this plane of reality forever, as well as make you a target for all sorts of nasty stuff from beyond. Things get intense.
Where Does It Come From? & Why Is It Cult?
I’m combining these two sections this time around because you really can’t separate the cult of John Dies at the End from its creation.
Most books become cult; John Dies at the End was born cult. The origin of it is an inspiring story for any aspiring novelist, or to quote the author Mr. Wong, “…anyone who works in a cubicle and is easily inspired.” Mr. Wong (really Jason Pargin now editor at Cracked.com) began writing John Dies at the End in between shifts at his low wage office drone jobs. He posted the serialized adventures on a website, which eventually attracted such a passionate, dedicated following that Permuted Press picked up the book for a small run of paperbacks. Which in turn were spread with such fervor that St. Martin’s press picked it up for a legitimate hardcover release. There are books that are word of mouth hits, but very few which owe their very existence to the passion and dedication of its fans (and of course the skewed worldview of Mr. Wong himself).
In fact it’s almost eerie just how zealous most John Dies at the End fans are (including yours truly) almost as they’re being controlled by some Lovecraftian force from beyond.
How Does It Hold Up?
Well, why don’t I let Mr. Wong tell you:
What am I to say? Sure, my friend likes horror, but he “likes” beer, too. That doesn’t mean he would enjoy being trapped inside a half million-gallon vat at the Anheuser-Busch brewery, forced to drink his way out or die trying. And he would like it even less if, instead of beer, the vat was full of horror.
My answer to such friends is always the same: “Are you sure you know what you’re getting into? Because imagine an all-you-can-eat buffet. Only instead of food, it’s crack cocaine. And instead of crack cocaine, it’s horror. And the object in my pants? It is but my erection–an erection I’ve had ever since I purchased my copy of John Dies at the End… THREE WEEKS AGO. So sure, go right ahead and buy a copy if you dare. Just know that you won’t be able to give out any hugs to family members at Thanksgiving.”
This is more or less accurate. John Dies at the End is an exuberant tribute to the hyperbolic “splatter punk” style of the early Sam Raimi/Peter Jackson/Don Coscarelli (who fittingly is actually handling the John Dies at the End adaptation) style of filmmaking. A sub-genre of horror defined by its anarchic plotting, over the top mayhem, dark sense of humor and absurdity. But John Dies at the End rises far above mere pastiche.
Wong brings a sensibility to the material that is all his own, from the dark Lovecraftian God who demands that his human sacrifices be wrapped in bacon before being fed to him, the surprise appearance of Fred Durst, to the demon named “Shitload.” Wong’s prose guarantees at least one big laugh per paragraph, coupled with a real knack for character, and a lucid descriptive flair.
John Dies at the End is a genuinely funny, scary, and dare I say, occasionally moving work that will satisfy both the most hardened of horror hounds and those new to the genre.
What do you think? Is this cult? Add your thoughts below.