The Ghastly Love of Johnny X (2012)
Back in the mid-’80’s, when I attended college in Rensselaer, Indiana there was a road-side eatery out on State Route 114. The joint served giant deep fried pork tenderloin sandwiches on a greasy bun with thin-sliced pickles and mayo that I savored and ate with gusto. The place was called Something Different. Paul Bunnell’s The Ghastly Love of Johnny X (2012) is the film analog to that deep fried pork tenderloin delicacy. Johnny X is the type of film that appeals to only a small contingency of fans, but those that appreciate it will probably love the film. I’m hesitant to coin the picture a cult film, but to me it immediately draws comparison to The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), which, admittedly I have never deemed a special film (although once I did get clocked in the back of the head with a soggy roll of toilet paper).
There are certain similarities to Rocky Horror -the zombie dance and song number comes to mind, with Johnny (Will Keenan) playing puppet master to Mickey O’Flynn “The Man with the Grin” (Creed Bratton, who I would nominate for best actor in a supporting role) belting out “Big Green Bug-Eyed Monster” (the film’s catchiest song) reminding me of Charles Gray’s “The Time Warp”. Yes, Johnny X is an acquired taste. It’s a creative mélange of musical, sci-fi, juvenile delinquent (lot’s of inside references) films, horror and film noir.
The look of the film reminds me of some of the earlier Jim Jarmusch films, largely in part to being shot on Kodak’s now defunct luminous Plus-X 5231 B/W film stock. In fact, Johnny X was the last film shot on the legendary film stock used for over 70 years. Like Raging Bull (1980)? That’s Kodak Plus-X monochrome.
I can’t begin to describe the plot, but along the way of Johnny X’s journey we see several familiar faces, including Paul Williams, Reggie Bannister, and in his last role as The Grand Inquisitor Kevin McCarthy. Johnny X is worth a look. You might love it.