Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Original Title: Guyana, el crimen del siglo
Year: 1979
Director: René Cardona Jr.
Writer: René Cardona Jr., Carlos Valdemar
IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0080833/
Genre: Horror?, Exploitation

An horrific dramatization of the Guyana tragedy, this story traces the steps of Rev. Jim Johnson, who, after years of evangelism and good deeds, starts his own church in the United States, becomes increasingly obsessed and paranoid, and emigrates with his congregation to Guyana where he plans to create a utopia. When the United States government probes deeper and deeper into the true nature of this utopia, Rev. Johnson leads his followers where no one may have expected.

For those of you who do not know, this film is the dramatization of the events leading up to and the 1978 mass suicide by the followers of Reverend Jim Johnson. It was released less than one year after the suicide of more than 900 people by their drinking cyanide-laced Kool-Aid.

Let me put that out there again.

This film was released less than one year after the suicide of more than 900 people by their drinking cyanide-laced Kool-Aid.

That combined with the fact that the film really offers zero insight, and only gives the audience a glimpse at the purported events, tortures, rants, and suicides, really makes this film come off as very sleazy. But in a way it felt to me like Cardona's most mature work. (At least as far as I have seen and read about.) Maybe this is irresponsible of me to say.

The cheap shocks are there per Cardona's usual, but this time the shocks really happened in a sense. It was a shocking event, and in Cardona's defense, he creates a very creepy and brutal story with a climax that will make your skin crawl. Don't get me wrong, the fact that this film exists is offensive I would say. Cardona's immaturity was probably in making the film in the first place.

Most of the film is just James Johnson, played by Stuart Whitman in a role that really was not half bad, if a bit gruff, ranting to either his subordinates or his followers. The screenplay is very simplistic and lacks almost all artistic merit. A film like this is one step away from a police-reality show dramatization or a mondo film.

Again as I have said numerous times about Cardona's work, this one too feels like you are suffering through blah-blah-blah while you are waiting for the next shocker. The difference here was that the shockers had me kind of wincing this time. Call me jaded, but the "shocking" scenes of people being drug under the water by sharks in Cyclone, or loads of tits and bloody shootings in Guns and Guts were just scenes that I expected to see. They were there, and if they weren't I probably would have liked the films even less.

But the scenes in Guyana felt a little more brutal... struck home kind of successfully. Is it because they may have been based in reality? I don't know, but watching people force fed poison, even poisoning babies, was pretty horrific for me as far as watching a film goes.

This film is like a cheap prostitute. She shows you the goods for better or worse, you pay her, go through the motions, then you go home and cry in the corner. The way the film is presented is like a horror film we all know the conclusion to instead of a responsible film would attempt to offer some explanation into the subject matter, and not just show us the goods and be done with it. Or even a "fun" film in which the violent acts are based in obvious fantasy.

After watching Intrepidos Punks and La Venganza de los Punks, I felt like I needed a shower. But in that shower I was smiling and singing Van Halen - Jump.

After this Guyana: Crime of the Century, I'm stepping under the water with my clothes on.

You could probably do yourself a huge favor if you are interested in the actual events and read a book or see a documentary. Guyana, while definitely not the most graphic, gory, etc., (there is actually very little) is one of the more brazenly exploitative films I've ever seen.

Hey, but at least Stiglitz makes an appearance. Oh wait he looks like an idiot.

I really don't know if I liked it or not. We'll just call it right down the middle. Negative points for being shit screenplay and kind of plodding at times. Bonus points for having the balls and lack of tact to release it in the first place.

Shower time!

Score: 5 / 10

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