I love horror movies that touch on actually horrifying topics. It is one of the reasons horror is the best genre out there. Sure we have slasher flicks and ghost stories, but there are also tales of real horror. Abuse, abandonment, marginalization, to name a few. These are the stories people can relate to. These are the stories that need to be told. Johnny aims to tell the story of one of the worst horrors of all: child abuse. And its chaotic energy captures the spirit of what it might be like to be an adult who fell victim to such an atrocity. However, the chaotic energy proved to be too chaotic to tell a cohesive story. 

Floyd is an unmotivated guy who is down on his luck. A victim of child abuse for most of his young life, Floyd is constantly tormented by the voices in his head. After a pretty serious string of hallucinations, Floyd comes across a talking puppet that may be a mysterious link to his abusive childhood. 

Johnny has some good thematics and good ideas. Broken up individually there are some powerful shot sequences. But as a whole, it was muddy and confusing. So many cut shots to B-roll footage that may or may not have been effective, depending on the scene at hand. The film’s flow and momentum suffered at the hand of so much cutting back and forth. The most notable element to suffer was the storyline. It took 65 minutes for me to understand what was happening in this film. This may have been by design but as an audience member, I found this to be quite frustrating. 

In addition to the frustrating storyline, the pacing in Johnny felt a bit sluggish. Certain sections of the film seemed to drag on, evoking some exasperation as the film progressed. Some of this problematic pacing could be the result of the audio. Some of the mixing and sound effects left something to be desired. Additionally, the lack of audio balance between Johnny the puppet’s speaking voice and creaking effects made it hard to easily hear everything Johnny was saying.

Despite the film’s challenges, Johnny had some very redeeming elements. The themes explored in this film are gripping, gut-wrenching, heartfelt, and raw. The chaos in the film and its production personify the chaos and turmoil felt by those who were victims of abuse as children. This is best exemplified in the final 20 minutes of the film as Floyd discovers the truth about his troubled past and in this “if I had wings” monologue. That monologue currently lives rent free in my memory. Visually speaking there were some very striking moments between Floyd and Johnny, and between step-father Gary and Johnny. The camera angles were engaging and captured the tense exchange between the characters flawlessly. 

Props to John Charles Gerald for basically almost single-handedly taking on this film. He wrote, directed, starred in, produced, edited the film, and produced the music. Not many directors could take on so much at once and Gerald’s passion for film is certainly felt here. 

Overall there are certainly things to like about Johnny. Its themes are gripping, the lead character is strong, and there are some beautifully shot scenes. Unfortunately, there is too much chaos in the storytelling to truly get a sense of what is going on. And by the end, I knew there were things in the film I liked, but I hopelessly wanted more than what I got. 

 

4 out of 10

Johnny
RATING: UR
Runtime: 1hr. 45 Mins.
Directed By:
Written By:

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