Review: Johnny Z (2023)

The long awaited Indie action/horror film Johnny Z is here and it’s streaming on Prime. Way back in 2017 I had the opportunity to meet the director Jonathan Straiton at Days of the Dead Indianapolis while he was promoting his film, “The Night of Something Strange”. He mentioned his next film, Johnny Z and they did an Indiegogo that funded successfully. Now, I am just going to say this, it took a long time to get to this point, I know this, most know this. Indie films like this are extremely low budget and they shoot around the crew’s life and work schedules. This was no different. But, there was also a global pandemic that put the production on hold for a long time. But now, here we are. The movie is here and I will answer one question.

Was it worth the wait?

Synopsis:

Johnny Z is a horror-action feature film about a half human, half zombie named Johnny who, under the guidance of a martial arts master seeks vengeance on the evil corporation that created him.

Well, this movie was…fun. It’s a zombie movie with martial arts and an intriguing villian played by David McMahon. McMahon plays Frank and were not sure what his deal is, but patient Z has escaped and he wants him back. The film follows Jonray(Felix Cortes), a guy who is pretty much a badass. He lives on a farm in this apocalypse with his brother Crisanto(Jason Delgado) who hangs out in this barn drinking his own brand of moonshine when patient Z stumbles on him.

Frank is searching for patient Z while Jonray and his brother Crisanto figure out what to do with “Z” as they call him. They keep him in a bunker under the barn and once they notice “Z,” mimicking the martial arts moves Jonray practices, it changes the way they see “Z”.

Ok, getting to some serious things. The filmmaking, sound design, fight choreography, effects and all the technical aspects of the movie. Again, this is an Indie film with a super low budget and with that in mind….This is a huge step for Indie productions in the right direction.

The cinematography and direction alone make Johnny Z look as if it were filmed with a bigger budget and it looks more theatrical that most Indie horror films, more than most. I think Straiton gets a lot from his actors, the standouts are definitely Cortes and Delgado, especially when they’re on screen together. But I’ll have to say, at times McMahon was great. He was menacing and mean and you wonder what does he really want. I’ve seen McMahon in numerous Indie films and this was his best role and performance by a long shot.

Johnny Z is a success in my eyes and one of the best Indie horror films I’ve seen in the last 5 or 6 years. No joke. I’ve been one of those getting irritated waiting for this movie to be released. Worth the wait, I don’t know, it was a long wait.

Now, this isn’t a perfect movie. There are things that didn’t work and some pacing issues. Cortes and Delgado have scenes where the mostly speak Spanish, that isn’t a problem, but there were no subtitles and that is a problem. I don’t know if that was a Prime thing or what, but I had to manually turn on subtitles because they’d break into Spanish numerous times, which is realistic for two brothers who are of Hispanic descent.

The fight choreography was tight at times and others it was slower and some of the effects weren’t great, but again, being as low budget of a film as it is, it does get a bit of a pass. These things do not take you out of this movie at all.

I hope there is a sequel. The world Straiton and Ron Bonk(House Shark) are building with this film could be big and big for Indie horror.

If you enjoyed Night of Something Strange, check out Johnny Z, they are nothing alike. If you haven’t seen either, Johnny Z is streaming on Prime and if you want a good gross out movie that pushes you the verge of vomit, check out Night of Something Strange on Tubi.

About Ray Marek III 697 Articles
I have been watching horror films since I was 6 years old. The story, one Saturday night, my mom and I were watching movies and she fell asleep on the couch. We had the channel set on HBO and the movie we were watching ended and the next one, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge. This was some time in 1986. I watched then entire film, I was sitting on the edge of my seat. When my mom woke, she asked me what just ended and I told her, “Freddy”. That was all I talked about for weeks and finally she broke down and rented more horror films for me. She rented, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre part 2, Re-Animator, Friday the 13th VI: Jason Lives and Halloween II. I watched all and fell in love with horror films forever. 5 Horror Films to Watch Inferno (1980) A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) The Beyond (1981) Friday the 13th VI: Jason Lives (1986) Horror of Dracula (1958)