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article imageReview: ‘She Who Must Burn’ is intelligent and pointed horror Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Nov 28, 2015 in Entertainment
‘She Who Must Burn’ is a thoughtful condemnation of extremists that doubles as an intense drama and engaging thriller. Shot in Vancouver, the film plays The Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival.
Religious zealots take up causes they consider an affront to their belief system and go to extreme measures to eradicate the perceived threat in some way. Consequently health clinics have had to employ increased security to protect those who dispense or seek reproductive services, particularly abortions. The methods of the opposition can be quite frightening and She Who Must Burn portrays the worst of the worst.
In this small U.S. town, the religious leaders have more authority than the state law representatives as the sheriff would rather appease than anger the petulant group. Yet Angela (Sarah Smythi) stands against them, offering people, especially women, counselling on any issue via the planned-parenthood clinic she operates from her home and arranging for them to receive any medical treatment they need. The devout blame her presence for their misfortunes and dutifully convene on her lawn daily in an attempt to coerce her into leaving, unmoved by her husband’s position in the local police department. However tempers are heating and the opposition to Angela’s practise is reaching a boiling point that will result in reprehensible consequences by which no God would abide.
To describe this film as dark would be somewhat of an understatement. It compresses the worst actions, beliefs and directives of a group in a 90-minute film that grows increasingly intense with every new revelation. By the last act, viewers are squeezed in a vice grip with no relief from the atrocities committed on screen. Yet, as has often been proven, an audience’s imagination is much worse than anything that can be portrayed. Thus, the physical violence mostly occurs out of frame and only the resulting damage is displayed.
Writer/director Larry Kent’s position on this issue is obvious throughout the film via his depiction of the villainous fanatics. The conclusion is especially heavy-handed in condemning the actions of the perpetrators and onlookers, while reaffirming the innocence of Angela and others. Nonetheless, Kent uses this feminist and political messaging to construct a powerful and disturbing thriller that’s horror gets under the skin of its viewers as it’s still based in a reality where similar events occur.
The film is an official selection of the 2015 Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival in Toronto. And even though the movie is not a traditional type of selection for this festival, this sharp narrative is deserving of the recognition such programming provides it.
Director: Larry Kent
Starring: Sarah Smyth, Jewel Staite and Andrew Dunbar
More about She Who Must Burn, Larry Kent, Sarah Smyth, Feminism, Planned parenthood
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