Blu-ray Review: Room 37: The Mysterious Death of Johnny Thunders (2019)

May 18, 2019

Written by DanXIII

Daniel XIII; the result of an arcane ritual involving a King Diamond album, a box of Count Chocula, and a copy of Swank magazine, is a screenwriter, director, producer, actor, artist, and reviewer of fright flicks…Who hates ya baby?

On April 23rd, 1991, former New York Dolls guitarist and notorious heroin addict Johnny Thunders was found dead at the St Peter House in New Orleans. How this happened as long been one of rock n’ roll’s  greatest unsolved mysteries, as an autopsy report found only a minimal amount of drugs in his system (he was attempting to get clean at the time)…but murder has always been a strong contender in his demise.

Written and directed by The Cordero Brothers, Room 37: The Mysterious Death of Johnny Thunders presents a fictionalized version of the events surrounding Johnny’s (played to razor sharp perfection by Leo Ramsey) exit from this mortal coil. As our protagonist rolls into town he’s a broken man; his wife has left him, he hasn’t seen his kid in ages, and he’s trying to give up chasing the dragon.

Johnny manages to continue his career in The Big Easy, and find some small companionship with hotel staffer Iris (Devin McGregor Ketko) but it is tough going. To make matters worse, Leukemia is starting to take it’s hold on his body, and a shamanistic death figure keeps appearing in front of him (among other prophetic and absolutely horrifying visions).

As the days pass, Thunders finds himself the victim of a robbery and is forced to go without the methadone he is using to battle his demons (as well as the possibility he has been drugged without his knowledge) and his life (and any sense of reality) begins spiraling further and further out of control.

While there is plenty of impressive visual artistry and straight-up fright flick trappings on display, Room 37 is first and foremost a character piece. Ramsey is a reed thin, manic ball of exhaustion and mental collapse made flesh and he absolutely owns the role of Thunders, and the film as well. Along with being kinetic as fuck; Ramsey’s portrayal of Thunders displays a sense of child-like fear as well, but through all of those personality shifts, Thunders remains sympathetic and engaging.

The supporting cast including Ketko’s turn as saintly maid Iris, Timothy Lee DePriest as street scum Skaggs, and especially Jason Lasater as the drug dealing psychopath Eagle, are all excellent as well and populate the world of the film with truly memorable characters.

That’s not to say that this is strictly a drama, far from it in fact. This flick features a strong undercurrent of suspense and mystery along with shocking bursts of violence and fever dream imagery that would doubtless satisfy horror hounds lookin’ to get a bit adventurous with their viewing.

As for special features, the offerings are light consisting only of a slideshow of images from the film and a trailer, though the film’s soundtrack is included on a separate CD and that is a welcome thing indeed!

Room 37: The Mysterious Death of Johnny Thunders is a can’t miss flick, especially if you love punk rock and suspense packed dark thrillers in equal measure; it’s acted to perfection, filled with unforgettable imagery, and packed with surprising emotion.




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