True crime stories may be all the entertainment rage these days, between "Making a Murderer" and "The People v O.J. Simpson," but it’s often easy to forget that these stories are true first and foremost, that they chronicle real people and real events and real pain. The SXSW premiere "Johnny Frank Garrett’s Last Word" may help audiences remember that, with a cinematic twist that lands hard.
Of the project, director Simon Rumley explained to Indiewire, "The main thing to remember about ‘Johnny Frank Garrett’s Last Word’ is that it’s a true story. Johnny Frank Garrett was a kid from the wrong
side of the tracks who was arrested at the age of 17 for the rape and murder of
Sister Tadea Benz, a 76 year old nun. This crime took place in the sister’s
bedroom in her nunnery in Amarillo, Texas on Halloween 1981 and sent shockwaves
of outrage and disgust throughout the community. Headed by a new DA, Danny
Hill, the police struggled to find anyone for this crime but ended up arresting
Johnny and although his trial was as unfair as they got, he was sentenced to
He continued, "Johnny always professed his innocence but his words constantly
fell on deaf ears and in spite of Pope John Paul II asking Texas Governor Anne
Richards for a stay of execution, Garrett was still executed a month later, never
once wavering from his innocent plea."
The film has a little twist to it, too, as Rumley notes that what makes it "a genre film,
however, is the fact that he left a curse letter on his death bed claiming that
those involved in his conviction would start dying mysteriously after his
death. And sure enough, this is exactly what happened. So make no mistake, this
is a thriller first and foremost, with horror and supernatural elements; it is
meant to be creepy, entertaining, edge of your seat stuff. But it’s also meant
to be intriguing and thought provoking."
Check out our exclusive clip from the film up above. "Johnny Frank Garrett’s Last Word" will have its world premiere tonight at SXSW at 11:59pm at Alamo Lamar. Other screenings will follow.