Fresh from Fantasia International Film Festival, we received the latest film from Larry Kent, where we get an eery thriller with a social commentary showing a brutal clash between the “Right to Choose” and the “Right To Live”.
In “She Who Must Burn” we get transported to a little town where a group of Evangelical Fanatics (Is there another kind on films?) stalks and hassle Angela, a nurse that helps the pregnant women of the town with counseling and birth control pills from her house, after her clinic got shutdown by the state, due in part to the murder of a doctor at the hands of one of the leaders of the aforementioned Evangelic group.
Mac, Angela’s boyfriend whom she has been living together with for some time (Angering even more to the Evangelists, since it’s out of wedlock) tries to uses his position as deputy to keep the protestors out of their house at bay, but the sheriff warns him that it might be wiser to move out, since things are just bound to get a lot worse, and soon.
Despite what you might think, Angela decides that she is not going to move out, even with the increasingly violent threats from the fanatics, due in part to her sense of duty to help the very high number of pregnant women on the town that suffer from very complicated (and even life threatening) pregnancies, apparently due the toxins in the environment of this little mining town.
Things get a turn for the worse when Angela helps an abused woman to leave her husband, and ends up facing the wrath of Jeremiah, the other leader of the evangelists, who not only is a man with no hesitations to remove (permanently) those he considers sinners under the guise of “Doing God’s work”, but also the husband of the woman Angela just helped to escape.
Tensions reach the breaking point when word gets out of another woman having an abortion, and Jeremiah’s sister Rebeca claims to have been touched by God and given the order to erase the sinners from their town, leaving Angela and Mac fighting for their lives trying to escape the madness the town seems to be dwelling in…
Ok, as you might have noticed “She Who Must Burn”deals with the theme of abortion and the “nutty people” that opposes it, and while it manages to present us with some members of the Evangelical community that are struggling with the choice between saving a life thru the abortion (going against their religious beliefs) or just “Leave everything in God’s hands” (and risk the lives of the expecting mothers), the rest of the characters are shown just in tones of black and white, with no middle ground nor other motives that might justify their views. “Good guys are good, bad guys are very, very bad” and while I get why it had to be presented like this up to certain point, I think it gets old and tired very fast, and it might alienate some people in the audience that might not fall into either side. (Well, there is also a neutral sheriff that is pretty much useless… Alas…Nevermind)
One of the strongest points of the film, however, and one that actually makes the whole thing scary, is the fact that this kind of situations still might happen in some remote regions of the country, even in this time and age, where all the information you want is just a click away. The films sets the story on a undescribed era, but since I can’t remember a single cell phone, tablet (or even a computer to be honest) I would guess the setting would be early 80’s, but still, I see no problem happening today…
In general I think the acting was better than good, but some of the performances felt a little bit over the top, like I said earlier, “The Bad Guys are just very, very bad” in some cases “SUPER CRAZY… WATCH OUT” kinda type. The film was directed by Larry Kent, a man with a lot of history on the indie cinema, and co-written with with Shane Twerdun who also acts as Jeremiah, the evil and charismatic leader of the fanatics (after the previous leader got sent to jail) who justifies all his abuses with his religious blabber, and that clearly might not be watching out for the best outcome for his congregation, but only for his own and his family’s benefit.
In the cast we also have Sarah Smyth as Angela, Missy Cross as Rebecca, Andrew Dunbar as Caleb, Andrew Moxhan as Mac and Jewel Staite as Margareth.
While I still think the film is worth a watch, I have a serious complaint to make, this might be just a problem for me,so take this with a grain of salt:
One of the problems I had watching the film, it was not the theme itself, nor the conflict or the characters, it was the way it was filmed, at no moment where an actor was on frame, the camera stood still, during every single shot the camera was shaking the way you see it on a reality show, or an episode of “Modern Family” and it took me out of the movie several times. Hell.. It actually made me feel sick for a moment and I had to stop the screener. I NEVER, EVER got motion sickness, not even with films like “Cloverfield” or any other found footage-style films.
This movie is presented in the traditional sense, and I saw no reason why the creators could not just use a tripod… Only when we see shots of the sky, the prairie or the horizon, we get a nice, steady shot, as soon as an actor appears on screen BAM! Shaking and Baking!! Shaking and Baking! Zoom in! Zoom out!! Who cares if you want a nice frame so you can actually see the conversation and get into the plot? Bam!! Let’s SHAKE AND BAKE! I’m not even referring to the third act where is also a chase thru the woods at night, I’m talking about the WHOLE FRIGGIN MOVIE!
Ok, RANTING OFF… let’s get back to the movie..
In conclusion, “She Who Must Burn” is a troubling film, disturbing and with a very interesting premise, worth your time. I recommend to see it with an open mind, religious levels down, a big dose of Dramamine and you will be fine.
Please, aspiring filmmakers, take note, invest $20 on a tripod or any camera stand of your liking, and USE IT at least 70-80% of the movie, specially if you are NOT making an action film. Not every single movie needs to look like it was filmed by a drunken monkey, or my uncle Chencho when he got our first video camera. (trust me it was bad, I’d prefer the drunken monkey over my uncle Chencho)