Johnny Grissom (Anthony De La Torre) is dead. Dead at the hands of his friend Gary (Chris Modrzynski) during a dangerous bout of speeding. No matter though as Johnny isn’t the type to just stay dead.
Based off the award-winning horror novel by Gregory Lamberson, Johnny Gruesome is a tongue in cheek and violent horror movie about revenge from beyond the grave.
You see while Johnny’s life wasn’t exactly great before he died, he still didn’t actually want to die. He had a girlfriend, loved a bit of heavy metal and was every bit a teenage rebel as he could possibly be. Back from the dead, Johnny has one goal now. To take revenge on Gary and his other friends who helped cover up his murder.
Johnny Gruesome is a hit and miss horror. When it hits, it’s nasty & entertaining. When it misses, it bores and comes across awkward.
The story is decent and moves at a pace that keeps things fresh. We’ve barely gotten to know Johnny when he is killed off. The situation that leads to his death is probably the biggest over-reaction ever but that is explained away later in the film in a way that makes sense.
With Johnny dead, his best friend Eric (Byron Brown II) takes over as lead. His character is the most well-rounded in the movie as he bitterly regrets his part in covering up Johnny’s death. It’s Eric that begins to realise that Johnny is back as the body count rises.
Gruesome doesn’t have much in the way of forgiveness in him so his victims all suffer painful and violent deaths at his hands. The effects on these and Johnny (he decays as the movie goes on) are mixed, some are perfectly serviceable while others highlight the low-budget nature of the film.
The acting is also a bit of a mixed bag thanks to some awkward dialogue. Johnny should have been a bit more of a wise-cracking zombie but instead he just comes off as bit bored. One particular scene between him and a little girl is pretty dry stuff. Perhaps the most surprising thing about Johnny though is that he just isn’t a sympathetic character. Something that is hammered home in the final third. It doesn’t really make a whole load of sense and changes the tone of the movie quite a bit.
The longer it goes on, the more you’ll feel yourself detaching from the enjoyment of it. It leads to a final showdown between Johnny and Eric that totally fails to capture the imagination. It’s hard to care who comes out alive or in Johnny’s case…still dead.
The early promise is gone by the end and the final feeling you’re left with is one of disappointment. It’s a run of the mill revenge horror that lacks a memorable villain or character to get behind.