The Ghastly Love of Johnny X (2012)

Description (from johnnyxmovie.com):
Shot on black-and-white Kodak film stock, Paul Bunnell’s 1950s throwback dials up the weirdness of the already surreal genre of sci-fi B movies with showstopping musical numbers, over-the-top dialogue, and hilariously hokey special effects.
Banished to Earth for intergalactic juvenile delinquency, Johnny X and his gang of Ghastly Ones set off in search of a piece of alien technology that could change the fate of the universe forever—the so-called “resurrection suit.” Soon, the extraterrestrial nogoodniks are embroiled in a wacky scheme involving a femme fatale named Bliss, a shifty concert promoter with schemes of his own, and a recently deceased musician who won’t let a little decomposition stop him from rocking.

Major Cast:
Will Keenan as Johnny X, Creed Bratton as Mickey O’Flynn, De Anna Joy Brooks as Bliss, Reggie Bannister as King Clayton, Les Williams as Chip, Jed Rowen as Sluggo, Kate Maberly as Dandi Conners, Paul Williams as Cousin Quilty, Kevin McCarthy as The Grand Inquisitor

Special Features:
“Paul Bunnell’s Ghastly Vision” Featurette, Commentary Track, Deleted Scenes, Outtakes, Trailer

Written by Steve Bingen, Paul Bunnell, Mark D. Murphy, George Wagner
Directed by Paul Bunnell

I first heard about THE GHASTLY LOVE OF JOHNNY X a few years back when Will Keenan (interview here) started posting about it on Facebook. I have been a fan of Keenan’s work ever since TERROR FIRMER, so the fact that he was not only in this film, but was speaking so highly about it, made me very interested. Then I found out that TGLoJX was supposed to be the last film ever, ever, shot on black-and-white Kodak Plus X 35mm film stock. That’s right: a low budget film that should actually be called a FILM! Not digital made to look like film, but real, true, 2.35:1 black-and-white film, and according to TGLoJX, presented in GhastlyScope. So there was the second “plus” this film had going for it going in. Then there was the fact that TGLoJX is a campy, 50’s sci-fi throwback, in the vein of THE LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA, and I was sold.

Johnny X and the Ghastly Ones looking too cool for school.  That's why their delinquents... that and black Twizzlers.
Johnny X and the Ghastly Ones looking too cool for school. That’s why they’re delinquents… that and black Twizzlers.

TGLoJX opens with Johnny X being banished to the worst place in the universe, Earth, by the Grand Inquisitor, played by the late, great Kevin McCarthy (aka the bad guy in UHF), for “intergalactic juvenile delinquency.” Right from the get-go, the 50’s sci-fi campiness is heavy with this one, and I’m liking it. Seriously, in the 50’s juvenile delinquency was about the worst thing to be feared (if you believe just about any movie from the time period), so this premise fits the idea perfectly. Johnny X and his cronies, The Ghastly Ones, are banished to Earth and decide to seek out the Resurrection Suit. From there we get lots of hi-jinks and shenanigans, and I don’t really want to ruin the fun for you. They do, however, include a reanimated rock ‘n’ roller (played by Creed Bratton), and the music man chasing him (Reggie Bannister, whom I could watch in just about anything and does NOT get enough work), as well as multiple song and dance sequences (one of which could be straight out of THE TWILIGHT ZONE), some 50’s car chases, and just a bunch of wacky wild b-movie dialogue being thrown all over the place.

Kevin McCarthy's acting, and his stand in work for DEVO, come together in TGLoJX
Kevin McCarthy’s acting, and his stand in work for DEVO, come together in TGLoJX

There is a lot to like about TGLoJX, but one of the things that really stood out to me was the performance of the leads in the film. Creed Bratton’s reanimated Mickey O’Flynn is hilarious as he usually is, and Reggie Bannister is always amazing and his work here is no exception. Will Keenan put in the best performance I’ve seen since CHOP (review here) as a reincarnation of James Dean as seen through the eyes of John Waters, and who knew he could sing and dance? The cameos were all really cool – Paul Williams and Kevin McCarthy especially – and even the secondary characters were a lot of fun. The surprise was De Anna Joy Brooks, whom I really got to love throughout TGLoJX; she is funny and fun and does a great job of fitting in the world that TGLoJX has created around her. Along with the performances, Bunnell has done an amazing job with creating the world that Johnny lives in. From the desert chase sequences, to the malt shop, to the set of “Midnight Musings of Cousin Quilty,” just about everything in TGLoJX screams 1950’s camp. The only aspect updated at all was the visual effects, which I had some reservations about. Everything else felt so true to period, so to have a splash of CGi in there really rubbed me wrong.

Johnny uses the Resurrection Suit to bring back Mickey... I just wish this wasn't CGi.
Johnny uses the Resurrection Suit to bring back Mickey… I just wish this wasn’t CGi.

Is everyone in the world ever going to like TGLoJX? No, no, a thousand times no. Those of us that get the joke, that understand the references, and see the reverence that Bunnell has for the genre will love this film. It’s going to be a similar audience as for THE LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA, however TGLoJX treats the original genre with just a bit more veneration that TLSoC does. That film is just over the top bad and campy, and that is 100% what it is going for. TGLoJX is campy, and some of it is bad, but it is done so with a bit more of a light touch, and shows the true skill it takes to make a good bad movie. For those people out there that like this sort of thing, TGLoJX is going to be high on your list of favorites.

Reggie Bannister is always a badass, 4-barreled shotgun or not.
Reggie Bannister is always a badass, 4-barreled shotgun or not.

Overall, I really truly enjoyed TGLoJX. It is a funny, campy romp through a bunch of 50’s sci-fi / juvenile delinquent movie tropes and it hits in all the right places. There are some bits that are a bit slow and could be trimmed just a bit, there are some effects that are too new and take me a bit out of the true-to-the-50’s feel that the rest of the movie has, but overall it is a really amazing homage to the films of a lost time period. This is a movie that I not only really liked, but I know I will watch again and again as time goes on.

Overall 8.5 / 10

TGLoJX on the IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1754633/

TGLoJX for sale: http://amzn.com/B00BR1ZFC4

TGLoJX site: http://www.johnnyxmovie.com/

The Ghastly Love of Johnny X (2012) DVD Cover
The Ghastly Love of Johnny X (2012)
DVD Cover
The Ghastly Love of Johnny X (2012) Theatrical Poster
The Ghastly Love of Johnny X (2012)
Theatrical Poster
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