The Ghastly Love of Johnny X (2012) – By Philip Smolen

Johnny X (Will Keenan) and his band of intergalactic juvenile delinquents (The Ghastly Ones) have been banished to Earth after repeatedly breaking the law on his home planet. The elders (led by sci-fi genre vet Kevin McCarthy in his last role) say that Johnny and his pals can return to their planet when they perform a selfless act on Earth. A year goes by and Johnny and his merry aliens are creating havoc in small town America when one of Johnny’s girls, Bliss (De Anna Joy Brooks) runs away from the group and begins romancing a local soda jerk (Les Williams). Johnny and the gang pursue her and after meeting the jerk and his uncle, rock promoter King Clayton (Reggie Bannister), they agree to help him. It seems that Clayton was counting on the profits from a concert by rock legend Mickey O’ Flynn (Creed Bratton). Unfortunately, O’Flynn dropped dead before the show. But it seems that Johnny is in possession of a “resurrection suit” which, when worn, makes the person wearing it do whatever Johnny X wants…

Paul Bunnell’s “The Ghastly Love of Johnny X” screams ‘cult movie’ from its opening frame. It’s a weird and pleasant enough spoof of 1950s sci-fi, musicals and JD movies that doesn’t quite reach the giddy heights that it should. While it’s amusing and fun, it wears out its welcome far too soon.

It’s apparent from the beginning of the film that Bunnell and his crew were aiming for high camp as the actors exaggerate their physical movements and speak either tough 1950s lingo or pure Kansas corn. Every so often the group belts out a song and a couple of them made me laugh. My favorite was Creed Bratton crooning “Big Green Bug Eyed Monster.”

But many scenes go on too long or end in songs that are just so so. Musical Camp is tough to pull off and Bunnell gets points for trying. But camp need to be outrageous and extreme and “Johnny X” can’t quite hit the mark. I mean think about it – how many successful sci-fi/horror camp musicals can you think of besides “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1975)?

Another problem is that the movie jumps around too much. The character of Johnny X should be the center for the entire movie, but halfway through Bunnell switches gears and focuses on Mickey O’Flynn and one of the Ghastly Ones, Sluggo (Jed Rowen). They’re not as interesting as Johnny and their story drains off a lot of energy.

But I have a theory. When “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” came out in 1975, it was a huge bomb. Critics hated it and audiences stayed away in droves. But after a few years, it was embraced by an entire generation who were looking for something different. Maybe that can happen to “The Ghastly Love of Johnny X.” Maybe down the road, this sometimes charming (and gorgeously photographed) flick can be discovered and adored by an entirely new generation of film fanatics. Maybe they will be able to appreciate its cult appeal more fully than anyone in 2014. Hey, you never know.

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