The Ghastly Love of Johnny X: A Retro Alien Musical Pastiche

The Ghastly Love of Johnny X

Runs Fri., July 19–Thurs., July 25 at Northwest Film Forum. Not rated. 106 minutes.

I wish I had a ghastly love for this movie. A campy concoction of sci-fi, fantasy, musical, ’50s juvenile delinquent scare-pic, and slapstick comedy, it successfully blends genres but fails to provide much in the way of interesting characters or plot. Director Paul Bunnell’s retro amalgam is fittingly shot in lush black-and-white with suitably cheesy special effects. From the opening scene to the end credits, there’s nothing to indicate Ghastly Love was made in 2012, which is an achievement of sorts.

At a diner in the middle of the desert, alien visitor Johnny X (Will Kennan) and his gang are in search of his ex-girlfriend Bliss (De Anna Joy Brooks), who stole his magical Resurrection Suit. The suit grants Johnny—or its thieves—irresistible power over others. Complications ensue when Bliss seduces the diner’s waiter (Les Williams) to help her escape. The rest of this madcap adventure concerns their struggle for the stolen suit, accompanied by musical numbers with forgettable lyrics that strain to be hilarious but aren’t.

At first, the ridiculous setting and exaggerated performances suggest fun to come. But as Ghastly Love drags on, the spoofy potential becomes ever more scattered and digressive, and the fun drains away. Among the colorful ensemble are too many random characters for us to follow. The song-and-dance sequences are passable thanks to some sharp editing, though too often the lip-syncing is evident. Ghastly Love doesn’t aim to be taken seriously. It wants badly to be a cult film like Rocky Horror, but it’s too bland for that.

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