The rock biopic takes a dark turn for an imagined glimpse into the final days of Johnny Thunders, legendary guitarist/vocalist of New York Dolls and the Heartbreakers. Directed by ‘the Cordero Brothers’, Room 37 drags you down into the realm of methadone withdrawal and a hallucinogenic hell that descends into a slow unravelling horror not unlike David Lynch meets Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Attempting to escape his self destructive lifestyle, Thunders, played by Leo Ramsey, checks in to Room 37 of the St. Peter House in New Orleans in 1991, the scene of his impending demise. No-one really knows what happened to Thunders in reality, but the autopsy showed evidence of advanced Leukemia and non-lethal levels of narcotics, but rumours about his last days also circulated, as described by Dee Dee Ramone in his book Lobotomy: Surviving The Ramones;
“They told me that Johnny had gotten mixed up with some bastards… who ripped him off for his methadone supply. They had given him LSD and then murdered him. He had gotten a pretty large supply of methadone in England, so he could travel and stay away from those creeps – the drug dealers, Thunders imitators, and losers like that.”
And that is the essence of the film, the slow and painful descent of Thunders trying to get his money and methadone back after it is ripped off from his room, plunging further and further into a half reality, half hallucinatory hell ride that takes you from hotel room, to hospital to derelict drug house on the edge of town.
Stalked by a spirit type figure with cow skull for a head, it depicts Thunders as an out of control accidental witness to his own final days, with dream sequences depicting a yearning to be reunited with his daughter. At times Ramsey’s acting is a little over the top, and a small amount of the dialogue is a tad unrealistic, but apart from these rare moments, Room 37 is more convincing than some of the output you’ll find on movie streaming services, and strangely transfixed you won’t find yourself switching this off after twenty minutes.
A well shot, dark and atmospheric film with accompanying soundtrack and tropes referencing films like The Shining. This is not just for Thunders fans, literally anyone with a passing interest in offbeat horror meets rock biopic on the subject of burnt out rockers will be interested in Room 37.