Home Video Hovel: The Ghastly Love of Johnny X, by Mat Bradley-Tschirgi
Exiled to the planet Earth by the Grand Inquisitor (Kevin McCarthy), Johnny X (Will Keenan) gets involved in a crazy adventure featuring a soda jerk (Les Williams), a two-timing lover (De Anna Joy Brooks) and a past-his-prime rock ‘n’ roller (Creed Bratton). A true passion project for director Paul Bunnell, The Ghastly Love of Johnny X features a retro 1950s flair with fun performances and musical numbers.
Things start off promising when Johnny X confronts the Grand Inquisitor garbed in costumes that could have come out of any number of Ed Wood flicks. Then Johnny X opens his mouth. The part is written as a bad-ass cool cat, but Will Keenan’s (Troma fans might recognize him as the male lead in Tromeo and Juliet) lifeless delivery makes the character a total bore. Johnny X can shoot energy blasts from his hands and control his fellow Ghastly Ones with a flick of the wrist, but there’s really nothing to the character himself. As I watched the story of this sullen alien wielder of deadly energy unfold before me, I realized this same conceit has been done much better in other films; take any of the myriad cinematic incarnations of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Incredible Hulk. The character of Johnny X is not why I enjoyed this film.
The supporting roles are played with much more gusto. The main baddie Sluggo (Jed Rowen) is a dead ringer for corpulent Z-movie actor Tor Johnson. De Anna Joy Brooks has fun playing all the sides of a femme fatale, belting out the musical numbers with style. Creed Bratton (of The Office fame) pulls off a zombie rock star with a giddiness that makes me wish he had a bigger part of the film. Even songsmith and actor Paul Williams brings an elfin glee to his cameo as talk show host Cousin Quilty. I loved how the supporting actors appeared to be having the time of their life embodying a loving take on 1950s B-movie acting.