Released in the UK around a year ago, “She Who Must Burn” is a drama horror film from director Larry Kent (“The Hamster Cage”, “The Slavers”). Kent also co-wrote the movie with one of its lead actors Shane Twerdun.
The film opens with a scene where a doctor is shot dead in his practice by an anti-abortion protester Abraham Baarker (James Wilson – “Sweet Amerika”, “Waydowntown”) who promptly falls to his knees and begins to sing “Amazing Grace”.
We then get to gradually meet the main characters for the rest of the film. Central to events is Angela (Sarah Smyth – “White Raven”, “50/50”). Angela works as a counsellor who has just discovered that the state funding to her workplace has been cut off. Together with her husband, policeman Mac (Andrew Moxham – “Black Mountainside”, “Assault On Wall Street”), Angela decides against leaving their small rural town, believing that there are people in the town that still need her help, and sets up a clinic in their home.
Abraham’s son, local preacher Jeremiah Baarker (Shane Twerdun – “White Raven”, “Black Mountainside”), takes a very old-fashioned view to the place of his wife Margaret (Jewel Staite – “The Killing”, “Stargate : Atlantis”) in the home, imposing his will on her with ruthlessness.
When Margaret turns to Angela for help, and Angela arranges for her to flee from her abusive husband it’s not long before Jeremiah comes calling at the clinic, along with a number of other anti-abortion protesters including his sister Rebecca (Missy Cross – “Exley”, “White Raven” and her downtrodden husband Caleb (Andrew Dunbar – “Bad City”, “Leprechaun : Origins”).
Mac’s boss, the town Sheriff (Jim Francis – “We Don’t Live Here Anymore”, “Exley”), meanwhile, is clearly reluctant to go up against the religious fundamentalists, even when they go beyond the law.
Events take a turn for the worse when the Baarkers misunderstand – deliberately or otherwise – the reason for a town resident crossing state lines with her teenage daughter and take matters into their own hands. Very soon Angela finds herself very much the subject of their attentions…
There is also a sub-plot about infant mortality as a result of the water supply being contaminated by the town mining business, and this is interpreted as divine judgement by the Baarker clan and followers.
At heart, though, this is a simple enough and rather effective tale – sometimes brutally so – about the dangers of religious fundamentalism and extremism. Granted some of the characters are somewhat stereotypical but they are no less effective for that, particularly those portrayed by Cross and Twerdun.
The final act is perhaps a bit of a let down and at odds with the realism on display for the rest of the film, but does show an element of poetic justice perhaps?
Terrible deeds being done in the name of religion isn’t exactly new, in fact I’d say it’s as old as religion itself, but with the troubles in the Middle East and the rise of the right around the globe the themes here are as relevant – and horrifically real – as ever. A well acted and shot low-budget film that’s definitely disturbing but also well worth a viewing…