Sunday, 29 November 2015

SHE WHO MUST BURN - Review By Greg Klymkiw - 2015 Blood in the Snow Film Festival

She Who Must Burn (2014)
Dir. Larry Kent
Scr. Shane Twerdun & Kent
Starring: Sarah Smyth, Shane Twerdun, Missy Cross, Jewel Staite, Andrew Dunbar

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Seventy-eight-year-old Larry Kent's She Who Must Burn is such a great picture on so many levels that I'm compelled to occasionally pinch myself to see if I dreamed its very existence. It was no dream. In all its greatness, it most certainly does exist. If there is any dream fulfillment here, it's one I long to experience with every movie I see, but these days, seldom do. For me, it's one of the best movies of 2015 and certainly one of the best of the new millennium. It gloriously infused me with the kind of rhapsodic gooseflesh I experienced earlier this year while watching 70-year-old George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road.

Not only is Kent's work representative of filmmaking at the highest levels of proficiency and artistry, but it's proof positive that we must never forget that our senior filmmakers often have it in them to knock it out of the park in ways that the young turks everyone seems happy to bestow accolades upon can ultimately only dream about.

Most notably, it's a film that's as current as it is prescient - a film that reflects the madness of contemporary religious fundamentalism in a manner so beyond the ephemeral that it represents a work that will only gain in importance whilst eventually reaching its own august years and beyond.

She Who Must Burn is, without question, a masterpiece.

With the recent events in Colorado Springs on Friday, November 27, 2015 - a whack-job's gruelling siege at a Planned Parenthood clinic in which he murdered three people and wounded nine - Kent's picture is almost beyond topical. It sadly and chillingly reflects the reality of Christian zealots who ultimately, exhibit absolutely none of what it means to be Christian. (And let's not just crap on Christians, but all organized religions worldwide.)

The state of Colorado has been home to some of the most heinous mass-slayings in recent American history (Columbine, Aurora and now Colorado Springs.) Robert L. Dear Jr. is the waste of breathing air who perpetrated his domestic terrorism, in the name of the Lord, no less, upon those who would dare advocate planned parenthood. Even scarier is America's seemingly endless history of violence against similar individuals and institutions.

She Who Must Burn is a relentless, savage and terrifying thriller - a genuine horror film for the ages - true horror.

Angela (Sarah Smyth) voluntarily runs a counselling service out of the home she shares with her husband Mac (Andrew Moxham), a deputy sherif in a small midwestern American Bible Belt community. The local planned parenthood clinic she'd been running had its funding cut by the State after considerable pressure from the Religious Right.

Angela's continued support for women in the community concerns Mac's boss, The Sherrif (Jim Francis), even though he's well aware of the nefarious work of the local pastor Jeremiah Baarker (a chilling, oily Shane Twerdun who is also director Kent's co-writer). Jeremiah's entire family (and parish) is insanely devoted to stamping out the "evils" of birth control and abortion. His father Abraham Baarker (James Wilson) already languishes in prison for killing a doctor at point blank range, his sister Rebecca (Missy Cross) continues to do the dirty work behind the scenes as it needs to be done and constantly attempts to get her pussy-whipped hubby Caleb (Andrew Dunbar) to begin pulling his weight as a "soldier" of Christ.

The entire parish rallies behind the sleazy slime bucket Jeremiah and takes part in endless protests and harassment of Angela's commitment to the health and well being of the town's most vulnerable. These "Christians" are happy to break any man-made law to fulfill their own perverted interpretations of "God's Law" and increasingly display irrational behaviour in their war against "baby killers".

False accusations, physical assaults and murder is not far behind.

The film is relentlessly terrifying. As over-the-top as the Christian psychos are, what's scary is how the behaviour is tolerated by both law enforcement and state legislators. Kent's film mounts in jaw-dropping horror and no matter how extreme things get, they never let up. Evil infuses the work of "the Lord" and builds to a savage, sickening climax and denouement.

Intelligent, audacious writing, first rate performances, overall production value of the highest order and taut direction in the Hitchcock tradition all add up to one barn burner of a horror thriller. Christ's remains, wherever they may be, must be spinning in their grave constantly for the events depicted in the film which sadly, are not far removed from the kind of evil taking place all over America and frankly, anywhere and everywhere in which organized religions have their insidious talons plunged deeply and ravenously in the flesh of all those who would dare transgress laws which no real God, no real Supreme Being, no genuine entity of love, spirituality and forgiveness would ever in its wildest dreams imagine, much less consent to.


She Who Must Burn is playing at the 2015 Toronto Blood in the Snow Film Festival.