Hey folks, as I have said before, I want to do more with Gremlins online than just exclusively focus on Gremlins, and since many of you reader love movies as much as I do, I thought my review of The Ghastly Love Of Johnny X might be of interest. If you really want to nitpick, it does have a connection to Gremlins if you are looking in the right place….
After hearing about this movie for a few years but not being able to see it in theaters and it dropping off my radar from time to time, I was ecstatic to see Netflix finally having it on Instant Streaming.
The Ghastly Love Of Johnny X is the story of an exiled alien hooligan that simply cannot follow the ‘reasonable’ amounts of conformity asked of him by his society, to the most utterly detestable backwoods planet of all, Earth. He can only return home if he commits one unselfish act.
At first this setup is all too predictable since anyone that has seen anything beyond Tyler Perry films or the latest Larry The Cable Guy dreck knows how the third act will play out for Johnny.
What we don’t know is how we get there. Let me give you a hint; it involves gangs of 1950’s human-appearing aliens that sing considerably elaborate musical numbers. I don’t want to give much of the plot away, but even with a few slower moments near the late middle of the film, the story kept my attention throughout by not giving the viewer more information than the characters have. I had to learn about developments as they did, and that was a nice touch we don’t see in films too often anymore. Thank you indie cinema!
The movie features a stylized 1950’s black and white look but doesn’t let anachronisms get in the way of a fun story and incredibly memorable musical sequences. Reportedly the movie was shot on the last of Kodak’s remaining black and white Plus-X film stock, and it is simply gorgeous. While many scoff at black and white films, this movie works even better without color due to the increase in contrast seen on the screen, and care seemingly was taken to make sure that everything stood out where it needed to for the viewer.
It matched all my expectations and more, plain and simple. The Ghastly Love Of Johnny X has everything: bits of horror, lots of sci-fi, humor, great songs and surprisingly enough, some actual heart.
The titular character, played by Indie fan favorite Will Keenan is absolutely perfectly cast with his wolf-like grin, and devilishly disarming good looks. The fact that Will cut his teeth by being a leading man on Troma favorites like Tromeo & Juliet and Terror Firmer shows that he has what it takes to keep audiences riveted after nearly a decade in the business. Will truly makes the most of his character and revels in how utterly ghastly Johnny can be, while Creed Bratton and Reggie Bannister steal their scenes with ease, as if they have been doing this for years. Paul Williams’ cameo was an absolute delight for me as Cousin Quilty, his influence has changed the landscape of music in ways most people will never know sadly. Paul Williams being in this modern retro musical feels to me like a tip of the hat to a truly remarkable artist.
Speaking of legendary cameos, Kevin McCarthy is featured in one of his last roles as a Zeus/Odin character and seems to be really enjoying the lines he was given, and it shows what a true actor does even after 70 years as a staple in the entertainment industry on a considerably low-budget independent feature.
I’d love to go on about these folks, but doing so would give so much away, that you really just need to watch it yourself.
The rest of the cast really managed to win me over, especially Jed Rowen as Sluggo and Kate Maberly as the Mickey O’Flynn fangirl, Dandi Conners. Les Williams performance as chip was at first very uninspiring until I realized his character was simply uninspired until Johnny and co. came to town, so it makes sense upon second viewing how he comes out of his shell through the film and the performance reflects this. I would have been happy to get more of Johnny’s crew, as I think there are a couple individuals that could have used more screen time, but I suppose that will have to wait for the multi-platinum 25th anniversary blu-ray release for Mars version.
The only cast member I was not impressed by was De Anna Joy Brooks as Bliss. I never really felt sure of her motivations, however I really didn’t care. Maybe that was intentional, maybe it was the way she was presented, but I felt the character was flat and not worthy of the attention the other characters thrust upon her.
If this had been released 20 years or more ago, it would have been a contender for the midnight movie circuit with people acting out the scenes with the cast, but now in this digital age, it will hopefully become one of those cult movies you pull out and say “Hey, you just gotta see this!”
Don’t miss this one if you are a fan of musicals, sci-fi, b-movies or you just want to support independent cinema! In fact, just don’t miss it at all. It may not be for everyone, but it was just ghastly enough for me.
Now I just need to find myself a Ghastly Ones jacket without breaking my limited bank.
Still wondering about that Gremlins connection?
See if this clip helps you at all, post your conclusions, thoughts and questions in the comments below