Tuesday, September 21, 2010

'Johnny Sunshine' is full of violent sex

Johnny Sunshine: Maximum Violence (2008)
Starring: Shey Bland, Eric Halsell, John Patrick McCauley and Josh Winkerbean
Director: Matt Yaeger
Rating: Four of Ten

In a dark future world overrun with zombies, Johnny Sunshine (Bland) is the hottest star in the snuff porn/zombie porn business. the film followers her through a couple of typical blood-soaked, drug-addled workdays while the producer and distributor of her films, Max (Halsell), plots to sell her boyd and soul to a corrupt cop named Stein (McCauley) so he can secure his entry into a walled city as a full citizen.

"Johnny Sunshine" is a film that mixes the cyberpunk and zombie movie genres quite effectively. It's a natural mix, as heartless societies are the mainstay of both (at least in the "after the fall" mode). It's a film that I sat down to watch, expecting to love, despite its obvious low budget.

But, then the torture porn started. I'm not talking "torture porn' in the "Saw" sense here... I mean literal torture porn. Long sequences of it. Sequences where our "heroine" rips a man's tongue out with a pair of pliers while having sex with him, and another where she rapes a young woman to death with a crowbar.

It was horrible stuff, and it was beyond my tolerance limit. I'm already a little squeamish when it comes to movie violence, but throw in sex at the same time and you've made a movie that isn't for me.

The on-screen snuff porn aspect aside, there's an interesting storyline unfolding in the film that details the complete and total corruption of society, and it presents a healthy dose of George Romero-esque social satire on the whole reality TV movement that's been taking every media segment by storm. The story would have been a little stronger if there had been something likable about Johnny, but it's hard to care about the fate of a character after you've watched her rape a girl to death with a crowbar. The ending is in keeping with the tone of the film and Johnny's personality and it actually made me revise my overall opinion of the film upward. it's actually one of those rare perfect endings and it shows that screenwriter Sean-Michael Argo has a keen sense of story (crowbar-rape scenes aside).

The acting in the film is a better than average for what is usually found in this kind of movie made with this kind of budget and Shey Bland is an attractive and charismatic actress (which gives the Johnny Sunshine character more appeal that she might otherwise have had given the repulsive things she does). The make-up effects and fight scenes are average, which means they fight choreography leaves something to be desired and more than once it's obvious that blows don't connect due either to bad camera placement or actors not hitting their marks properly.

If you can stomach the repulsive sexual violence in this film, it is actually a nice little hybrid genre picture. It makes me wonder what director Matt Yaeger and writer Argo might come up with if they do a second movie. I see talent here, and I'm interested in seeing how it develops with experience. I likewise hope to see Shey Bland again in the future--this is her first and, so far, only film credit--as she appears to be an interesting and talented actress.