When Angela (Sarah Smyth) refuses to leave her planned-parenthood clinic after it is shut down by the state, a family of fanatical evangelists vow to make her pay.
After spending over fifty years in the business, it’s rare to find a director who still has a voice or still has something to say to his audience. Director Larry Kent (who directed THE BITTER ASH in 1963) is still going strong and his latest picture, SHE WHO MUST BURN, may be a little film but it has a huge voice and has much to say. It’s insane to see a director who is pushing 80 still making films that are relevant to what’s happening across our nation. Abortion and religion have never mixed very well and this film takes a pro-abortion/women’s rights stance while smashing heads with a religious leader who has no sympathy for them. Kent co-wrote the disturbing script with Shane Twerdum (who also appears in the film) and the two men have crafted a very suspenseful film, one with a finale that litteraly punches you in the face….HARD.
Angela (Sarah Smyth) has moved to a small mining town where she has set up a private practice in her home. She’s in the business of planned parenthood and things are going well, except for the religious protestors who are at her home daily. Her boyfriend Mac (Andrew Moxham) is a deputy for the local police department and he’s always trying to look out for her. Things are a bit tense but mostly under control until a young woman goes to her asking for help. Her husband has been abusing her and wants to go somewhere safe. Angela helps get her out of there but the problem is that she’s the wife of Jeremiah Baarker (Shane Twerdun), the leader of the Christian group who has been regularly protesting her. When he learns of her participation in his wife’s disappearance, he and his group will take their beliefs to a whole new level, a level where blood will be shed in the name of the Lord.
In this day and age when killing in the name of religion is sadly a common occurence, one can’t help but to be frightened by a film like this. The majority of the picture plays out like a dramatic thriller, a story very much like something that could easily be ripped from the headlines. It moves at a slow pace, building the tension throughout. Once the film hits a certain peak, it literally explodes into a full on horror film. My stomach churned during a couple of key moments only cementing the fact that Larry Kent has made a film we will remember for some time to come. There’s also some very powerfull musical cues written by none other than former Fangoria editor Chris Alexander.
Kent must of scoured the Earth (or at least Canada) looking for the best possible talent he could find to give life to these characters and I think he nailed it with this particular cast. Sarah Smyth and Andrew Moxham are a perfect modern couple in the film. They have a believable and strong chemistry together. When it comes to the lunatic side of the story, the notable fanatics played by Shane Twerdun and Missy Cross are so frightening they could almost put any one of the Westboro followers to shame (I say almost only because they play fictional characters and the Westboro brood are real and scary as hell). I was pleasantly surprised to see the lovely and talented Jewel Staite (who will always and lovingly be remembered as Kaylee Frye on the short lived masterpiece FIREFLY as well as in the film sequel SERENITY) appear in a small yet pivotal role.
Not only do I love the title, SHE WHO MUST BURN also happens to be a very strong and memorable film. The final thirty minutes of the film will haunt you for days after viewing it. Larry Kent proves he still has what it takes to make an effective film. There’s never a dull moment and the story is gripping. With strong performances, a haunting score, and brilliant photography, SHE WHO MUST BURN is a film that will be remembered. (***** out of5)