Hi again, ghosts and ghouls! Let’s travel back in time. The year is 1992, and Johnny Frank Garrett is being executed after being accused and prosecuted for the rape and murder of Sister Tadea Benz in Texas. He was just 17 years old at the time of his conviction.
After his conviction and his execution by lethal injection in 1992, soon after, members of the town surrounding the case began dying, such as the news reporter that was covering much of the case, the DA, the medical examiner… it was all a little too strange. Obviously no one can prove if those that wrongly accused the 17 year old (evidence surfaced 16 years later that proved that the wrong man was convicted) are being haunted by the soul of Johnny Frank Garrett, but the coincidence is great, and it makes for a great film story, doesn’t it?
The documentary THE LAST WORD was released in 2014, delving into the wrongful conviction of Johnny Frank Garrett and exposing tons of corruption within the state that murdered a man for the sake of their own comfort and peace of mind.
Not to get political, but for some reason, this spoke to me in terms of the wrongful convictions and intentional ignorance in cases regarding racial and gender equality lately. Needless to say, this film made me pretty sad.
With all of that being said, I finished JOHNNY FRANK GARRETT’S LAST WORD. Obviously telling the story of the case explained earlier in this review, this film was a bit more fictional, explaining the story of the jurors that ultimately found him guilty and are now experiencing a curse left behind by Johnny Frank Garrett himself. During his execution, he promises to release his wrath on not only the jurors, but essentially anyone connected to them.
Needless to say, everyone starts dying. Like, everyone is dying all over this town and for some reason everyone is ignoring it…except the one juror who tried to maintain Johnny’s innocence. He is desperately trying to prove Johnny’s innocence before the curse kills his son (which is actually pretty traumatizing to watch – this 10 year old kid suffering so horribly).
JOHNNY FRANK GARRETT’S LAST WORD is brought to us by Momentum Pictures, the same people that brought us THE INSTITUTE (which you all know I loved), which explains why I enjoyed this film as much as I did. It seems that they know how to cast actors that play their roles well. I’ve noticed a trend in horror films lately, where characters are casted based on how well-known the actor portraying them is, however, Momentum Pictures (as far as I’ve been able to tell thus far) has casted those that play their roles well and it’s a welcomed change from feeling uncomfortable watching an actor that does not belong in their role. The story is also very well-executed, which is an important factor in a film being enjoyable that is surprisingly, often overlooked.
The film itself is relatively terrifying, as the viewer tries to figure out exactly what the hell is going on, whether the curse is real or fake, or whether everyone in the town has completely lost their minds. It’s a sad look into a corrupt justice system in which little evidence is collected in order to give the town the peace it feels it deserves (as, you know, god-loving people, as they’re depicted in this film). The church-goers want to see the murder justified, so they therefore convict the most convenient person, regardless of the evidence. Honestly, it made me a little nauseous because it’s such a real situation that could happen… especially with the way things are going politically these days.
The imagery in this film is pretty horrifying too – one scene in particular stuck out in my mind, where Adam Redman (Mike Doyle) is in a motel room watching the TV when it begins to play this horrible loop of disfigured people screaming. I’m most likely going to have nightmares tonight about that one, but that’s what I look for in horror films! Is there something important that sticks in my mind? Is there a storyline worth following? Is the cast good? If the answer to all of those questions is yet, I am content with the film I watched.
So obviously, I was impressed (and content) with JOHNNY FRANK GARRETT’S LAST WORD. It’s a creepy, dramatic film that seems a little too close for comfort, but also gives you the sense of a little bit of paranormal, which is nice if that’s the type of horror you tend to be into. It’s kind of like a documentary on crack. Definitely look for this one if you’re into serial killer documentaries, too! I would definitely do some research on the Johnny Frank Garrett case before giving it a watch to get a little bit of insight.