Johnny Gruesome – USA, 2017: updated with several reviews

Poster by Chris Cosgrave, inspired by Basil Gogos‘ artwork

‘Live fast. Die young. Leave carnage.’

Johnny Gruesome is a 2017 American supernatural horror film written, produced and directed by Greg Lamberson (Killer Rack; Dry Bones; Slime City), based on his own 2007 novel. The movie stars Anthony De La Torre, Byron Brown II and Aprilann (not a typo).

In the village of Red Hill, rebellious high school senior Johnny Grissom (Anthony De La Torre) is murdered by one of his best buddies while on a drunken joyride that seems as if he wants to kill all his friends (?).

Soon, Johnny’s classmates turn up dead, murdered by an unknown assailant. Johnny’s best friend Eric (Byron Brown II) begins to suspect Johnny has returned from the grave to wreak havoc on those who wronged him…

Reviews:

” …its emotional shifts are almost as unnatural as Gruesome’s rise from the grave. They might be intentional too, as the backing score is just as jarring. The music is made up of some fair, even catchy, metal tunes. At its best, it sounds creepy and builds tension. At its worst, it lays the feelings on too thickly. Like it, alongside the emotional shifts, some ropey dialogue and the wooden acting tells the audience what the mood is than showing it.” Dave Heath, Cryptic Rock

” …the film ever approaches a laugh is when it’s quality and obvious mistakes approach parodic levels of bad. And lacking the budget and ingenuity to do anything in the other direction of horror, Johnny Gruesome is stranded in a no-man’s land of pure disappointment. I stand truly dumbfounded not only by the fact that this was based on a beloved novel, but also because the author himself was primarily responsible for bringing it to the screen…” Chris Luciantonio, Film Pulse

” …more of a teen horror comedy than a straight-out slasher. A nervous headteacher walking the school corridors, a jumpy schoolteacher and a dumb yet headstrong Gary trying to make it with Karen all make for humorous moments. The script manages to balance the laughs and drama with the horror of the savage kills that live up to the film’s title.” Horror Cult Films

” …an edgy, bloody, angsty movie; a complete supernatural horror thriller that succeeds on every level. There’s even a little bit of drama and comedy thrown in for good measure among the blood, guts and revenge. My only complaints are that some of the lighting, particularly in the daytime, is a little too whited out for my taste. And that the performances and special effects have a long range – from good to bad.” Horror Society

“There may not be many scary moments in Johnny Gruesome, but it’s a quickly paced and fun supernatural revenge flick that has a great soundtrack, excellent makeup and perfectly cast characters with personalities.” Jason McFiggis, Morbidly Beautiful

“While it could have used a bit more gore to help it live up to its name, the film is lively and fast-paced enough to get around the lack of effects. Johnny’s makeup as he starts to rot is quite effective. There’s some puppet work near the end of the film that could have been a lot better.” Jim Morazzini, Voices from the Balcony

“The kills are fun on a budget like any horror comedy should be. It’s filmed bright but still has grittiness about it. It’s pleasingly Hollywood unrefined with the filmmaking experience that shows, which we don’t find much these days. Lamberson films gruesome, comedy and horror like few can.” Headless Critic, Without Your Head

Verdict:

Johnny Gruesome is easy on the eyes and ears. Unfortunately, like its zombie protagonist, it lacks anything vibrant to bring it to life on screen. We simply don’t care about Johnny, his supposed friends or what is going on generally. Some of the gore is ok and the metal-lite tunes are agreeable. That said, Greg Lamberson’s delivery of his supposed labour-of-love is choppy, to say the least. This is not a movie to seek out.

Adrian J Smith, HORRORPEDIA

Main cast:

  • Anthony De La Torre – Lords of Chaos
  • Byron Brown II
  • Aprilann
  • Michael Delorenzo – Ghost Whisperer; Phantoms
  • Chris Modrzynski
  • Kim Piazza
  • Rich Lounello
  • Madison Amey
  • Travis Torlone
  • John Renna
  • Jon Cesar
  • Nelson Wakefield
  • Kaelin Lamberson
  • Tim O’Hearn
  • Alexander S. McBryde

Filming locations:

Akron, Buffalo, Cheektowaga, Clarence and Lancaster, New York, USA

Release:

Uncork’d Entertainment is releasing Johnny Gruesome on VOD on October 16, 2018, and on DVD on January 1, 2019.

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