Film Review – She Who Must Burn (2015)


Veteran director Larry Kent is no stranger to exploring the infernal machinations of dysfunctional families. His previous works have showcased a commitment to honest outspoken storytelling with scant regard for any subsequent moral rumpus.

She Who Must Burn sees him transfuse this ethos into the blood stream of the modern horror film and the result is an unwavering stare directly into the eyes of spiralling inevitability that both entertains and repulses in equal measures.

The melodrama begins when tenacious planned parenthood adviser Angela, superbly played by Sarah Smyth (50/50), refuses to abandon her post after her clinic falls victim to state closure. The community she altruistically serves is minuscule, suppressed, and isolated from the tentacles of internet and mobile phone technology.

Included in the populace are the religiously fervid Baarker family who focus their rhapsodic vitriol upon Angela’s selfless commitment and vow to pummel her into submission – no matter what it takes.

As a killer storm approaches Angela’s deputy sheriff partner gets sucked into the vacuum of violence and the Baarker clan become pro life puppets pushed ever further in the direction of the Kool-Aid fountain.

She Who Must Burn carries more than a hint of vintage Samuel Fuller (Shock Corridor) in its cinematic DNA and it coldly escalates its manipulative misogyny in ways that would leave Lars von Trier (Antichrist) abashed. This is a truly bleak chunk of car – crash Canuxploitation that dares viewers to look away yet paralyses them with its Machiavellian “rabbit in the headlights” mentality.

The camera work form the upcoming Stirling Bancroft (Bloody Knuckles) is refreshingly unpretentious and the performances committed and impassioned whilst leaving the scenery free from bite marks. This leaves the narrative somewhat exposed but the rawness proves an advantage and the films cutting edge is sharp enough to slice through any budgetary shackles.

Edited by short film maker Elad Tzadok in such a way that allows its own intellectual momentum to dictate the pace the movie has no qualms in bulldozing the audience into a predestined moralistic corral. This bombastic style concocts a fragile relationship with subtlety but provokes maximum gut-reaction and will instigate many a heated debate.

Larry Kent shook hands with controversy when censors derailed the premiere of his counterculture classic High at the 1967 Montreal Film Festival, but with this combative broadside to the horror genre he puts it in an excruciating wrist-lock.

In the past astonishing filmmakers such as Jean Renoir (La Grande Illusion) and Fritz Lang (Metropolis, The Big Heat) have defended Kent’s work as artistic exploration over thematic exploitation. With She Who Must Burn he has forged a blistering schlock horror masterpiece that hurls theological napalm onto the bonfire of fanaticism

★★★★1/2 |Bradley Hadcroft

Horror, Drama, Thriller| Canada, 2015 | Content Media/Safecracker Films | Dir. Larry Kent | Sarah Smyth, Jewel Staite, Andrew Dunbar. | Watch Online:iTunes