'Johnny Frank Garrett's Last Word': SXSW Review

Courtesy of SXSW
True crime turns to schlock horror in Texas-set dud.

Simon Rumley spins a demon-possession yarn around a real-life Texas execution.

In 1992, the State of Texas executed Johnny Frank Garrett for the rape and murder of a nun. Some believe he was innocent; others feel that, given his mental illness, the death penalty was unjust. But most defense attorneys would surely agree that making Johnny Frank Garrett's Last Word about him is cruel punishment indeed. A schlocky fright flick where subtlety is a foreign language, the pic may amuse hardcore genre fans but is unlikely to find takers for theatrical distribution.

Mike Doyle plays Adam Redman, seen in an opening flashback as the lone holdout in a 12 Angry Men scenario where jurors soon steamroll him and find Garrett guilty. At the execution a decade later, a vengeful Johnny casts a curse on those who convicted him — and on their kids, their parents, their golf partners, what have you.

Soon afterward, bad things start happening all over the place. People start having visions of the ohmygodtheeditorjustflashedahundredcreepyimagesonscreen variety. Understandably, they impale themselves on sharpened pencils and hurl themselves down stairs. Worst of all, Adam's son is being visited by demons in his sleep. Adam's just a good ol' family man who don't go in for all that supernatural stuff, but soon he's convinced, and trying to prove the dead man was no killer.

Between the kitchen-sink scare tactics of the sound design and Simon Boswell's score, and the danger-zone overacting of many of the people he encounters, it's a wonder Adam keeps his wits long enough to get to the bottom of things. It'll be more of a wonder if any viewers are scared by this hokey exercise, which even during the credits insists it believes all this revenge-from-beyond business actually happened.

Venue: South by Southwest Film Festival (Midnighters)
Production companies: Boss Media, A7SLE Films
Cast: Mike Doyle, Erin Cummings, Devin Bonne, Sean Patrick Flanery
Director: Simon Rumley
Screenwriters: Ben Ketai, Marc Haimes
Producers: Rob DeFranco, Peter Facinelli, Frank Mancuso Jr.
Executive producers: Adam Goldworm, Eric Gores, Simon Rumley
Director of photography: Milton Kam
Production designer: Chris Trujillo
Editor: Robert Hall
: Simon Boswell
Casting directors: Karen Hallford, Nancy Nayor
Sales: Altitude Sales

Not rated, 95 minutes