Review: Johnny Gruesome…Not So Much

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Movie Details: From Uncork’d Entertainment, Johnny Gruesome,  which is based on the award-winning novel by Gregory Lamberson (Slime City, Killer Rack), who also directs the movie, comes out on VOD 10/16 and DVD 1/1/2019

Movie Hype:

Running tire marks around Ghost Rider…More vengeful than the Crow…
Johnny Gruesome grants y’all a death wish this fall…. This October, Johnny Grissom returns for revenge.

Movie synopsis: High school students Eric Carter (Byron Brown II) and Johnny Grissom (Anthony De La Torre) are best friends. Johnny is a heavy metal rebel nicknamed “Johnny Gruesome” by his classmates. When Johnny is murdered while on a drunken joyride, his killer persuades Eric and Johnny’s girlfriend to help him make the murder look like an accidental death. Johnny returns from the grave as a murderous, wise cracking zombie hell-bent on revenge.

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Review: Johnny Gruesome? Not so much:

Johnny Gruesome definitely has its ‘by the numbers’ roots firmly planted in the horror movie formula of the early 1980’s. Every recognized element is on display: from the ‘outcast teenager’, the ‘slutty girl, the ‘self centered jerk’ to the various and sundry generic high school characters.  It all seems geared to bring to mind such ‘murdered classmate comes back from the dead to seek revenge’ classics as Prom Night and Terror Train. Yet, with all those elements going for it, Johnny Gruesome just doesn’t quite fulfill the gruesome part of its name.jg2 (01453634xBFD02)

Johnny Gruesome had so much potential, however in my opinion, it dropped the ball in several key areas:

I understand that there are tough guys in the world who are slender and androgynous looking. However, to me, Johnny androgynous appearance makes him blend in with, and get lost among the generic female characters in the movie. Especially at the beginning of the movie, when he is still alive. My other issue is that the actor behind the character, Anthony De La Torre has very little screen presence in this kind of role as rebel teenager turned undead creature out for revenge. A psychotic killer, especially an undead one, needs to project derangement and an aura of evil. Even though they dress him up in cool clothes and De La Torre gives it his best shot at being Johnny Gruesome, it just doesn’t quite gel for me.

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On the other hand, Johnny’s best friend, Eric Carter is a stand out character in this movie. Byron Brown II gives Johnny Gruesome the kind of grounded character it needs, and most of the story drive and emotional content rests on Brown’s character of Eric Carter.  Byron Brown II doesn’t disappoint in either capacity. The Eric Carter character is the most fleshed out one in this movie and provides the audience with the reason to connect to the storyline.

Unfortunately, Johnny Gruesome is, in my opinion, a jumbled mess that seems to plod along with no real sense of creepiness or terror. It gave me the distinct impression that, for some reason, a large chunk of the movie with possible key scenes were left on the ‘cutting room floor’. It jumps around with no given reason or explanation. Johnny does all his major kills off-screen, so there is no scare factor in them at all.  Quite a few of the generic characters in this movie are over the top in acting and story wise. 

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The one thing that stands out in Johnny Gruesome the most is the special effects make-up work done on it by Craig Lindberg…..indeed, Johnny does become very gruesome looking.  It is only towards the end of the movie, where the F/X make-up replaces Johnny’s androgynous appearance with the gender erasing ghoulish effect that he becomes a terrifying character. As for the other special effects, yes they are low-budget looking. However being in the independent horror movie making business myself, I know you have to do what you can afford. It also lends to giving Johnny Gruesome a ‘throwback’ look that gives it a vintage ‘B-movie’ feel.

Lastly, I have to say, no matter what my quibbles with the Johnny Gruesome character, he sure drives a cool looking muscle car!


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Click here to watch the trailer:


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