I guess it’s not that uncommon of a sentiment, but, I’ve noticed over the years it seems to be the way I lean. So it’s no surprise that I was drawn to Paul Bunnell’s Ghastly Love Of Johnny X after seeing a piece on him and his plight on CBS Sunday Morning.
See, Bunnell has made it his life goal to scrounge enough money and pull enough strings to get his sci-fi/horror/musical/comedy/parody film off the ground and finished. As I understand, this path was years upon years of trouble and struggle and indignities and all else you’d expect from that kind of process so to finally get a chance to see the thing felt pretty cool. I guess you could say I was rooting for the man. Now, all that aside, we still have a movie hanging in the balance here and there are important things to get across so you can decide for yourselves.
This film (as noted above) is a musical-type of thing that sends up the 50s juvenile delinquent/rock n roll type pictures as well as the sci-fi/science gone wrong/alien/horror type stuff also from the same period. While it might seem like there’s been an outbreak of backslashes here, I can’t think of a better way to group as much data as I can in the same smushed-together way the film does. So right off the bat, here are your warnings:
If you can’t swing with a musical-film style that draws as much from Repo and Devil’s Carnival as it does Buffy’s ‘Once More With Feeling’ episode, then you probably won’t enjoy it much. Similarly, if you aren’t a fan of ‘homage’ or ‘loving-parody’ of period genre films or can deal with them much, then Johnny X will likely wear you out quickly. Lastly, if you cringe at period dialogue and slang that very likely sounded cheesy at the time it was first spoken, then you might do better elsewhere.
If, however, you made it through the above list intact, then I think Johnny X is a good film for you. All involved seem to be having entirely too much fun with the whole thing, as evidenced with great performances by The Office’s Creed Bratton as an aging/not aging anymore rock star, Kevin McCarthy as the Grand Inquisitor, Will Keenan as Johnny and on and on. The songs are often funny and catchy (surprisingly) and I found myself laughing pretty consistently throughout the whole endeavor. There are entirely too many visual references to bygone films to even list out here but that doesn’t mean it is only some collection of other people’s work. There is an originality to the whole thing, a charm that comes through despite a sometimes draggy pace at times.
So while this abjectly goofy film isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, and while it doesn’t really categorize as a horror movie much at all, I still enjoyed it overall. Could I have been biased because of the back story? Maybe a little. But really, a story about alien juvenile delinquents landed on earth to try to find a device that regenerates life while all the while getting involved with dead/maybe dead aged rock star and upstart soda jerks and…well, I think I’ll leave it there.
The movie is charming. The movie is nutsy and for me? Worth the time.