Director - Larry Kent (The Hamster Cage, Keep It in the Family)
Starring - Sarah Smyth (Supernatural, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief), Shane Twerdun (Arrow, Two Married People), and Missy Cross (Night of the Living Dead Mexicans, White Raven)
Release Date - 2015
Genre - Horror
Tagline - "In the heart of God's country an evil lurks"
Format - DVD (Personal Collection) (Screener)
Rating (out of 5):
Religious horror films pack a punch if done correctly. Not because I am religious, which is very far from the truth, but because religion is a scary thing. Before you start shitting yourself and try to say that I'm implying all Christians, Muslims, Jews, and so on are scary people. I am not saying that. What I am saying is that every religion has radicals that take things too far in the name of religion. I grew up in McDowell County, West Virginia which is controlled by Christianity. I have seen religious gatherings because people dressed a certain way, loved a certain way, or believed a certain way. Things usually ended in one of two ways. Either that person accepted what the church was telling them and became part of the religious mob or the gathering turned violent. I knew people who were open about their sexual preference and was hospitalized and I've known metalheads, goth, punks, and any other counter culture movement you can think of to turn over a new leaf to prevent religious persecution. Even I have been harassed by local churches when I was in middle school for wearing Jason Voorhees' shirts during class pictures and at one time former MTV VJ Jesse Camp was harassed and forced to leave McDowell because he looked different when he stopped in to make a documentary. Religion can be scary when you are on the opposite side of it. Cue in the 2015 horror thriller She Who Must Burn. I knew the film was religious based, obviously, but I thought it would go the route of a witch hunt and so on. Instead, we got a nerve racking film about how far some people will go in the name of faith.
The film follows Angela (Smyth) and her boyfriend who just happens to be one of the local police officers. Angela is one of the nurses at the local women's clinic and has been the center of attention in a string of protests in the area from various religious figures. When pastor Jeremiah Baarker (Twerdun) beats his wife when he discovers she is on birth control she flees the home and seeks Angela out for help. Angela sets her up with a way out of town and puts her in hiding from her fanatical husband. He goes to Angela's home with his sister Rebecca (Cross) and brother Caleb (Andrew Dunbar) to get his wife back so he can impregnate her. Angela refuses to give up her whereabouts which prompts the three to turn to a more violent approach when they start killing women that had abortions at the local clinic prompting her, her boyfriend, and a young girl they are trying to protect to flee when a dangerous storm is moving in.
Religious horror tends to be goofy and over exaggerated which is a shame because there is so much to work with. If you flip through the news channels you can find some appalling news footage of religious extremist going too far. Isis attacking this, a Christian gunman shooting homosexuals, and so on are truly frightening scenes that happen daily around the world in the name of religion but films fail to capture the true horror that is there. Instead, they focus on the more obvious points and deliver some very generic films with no atmosphere or scope to them. She Who Must Burn was able to capture what truly makes a zealot so chilling and dangerous. The acting in this is perfect for the film. Sarah Smyth was perfect as the film's lead. She is a women's right advocate through and through and would risk her life for the sake of the others. Not many people would follow through like that but Smyth made her character that strong. With that being said, the film's real stars are the three Baarker siblings especially Shane Twerdun who portrayed the leader of the three, Jeremiah. He took over every scene he was in and brought true chills. His character was true evil trying to pass as righteous. The story for this one is very slow but finally picks up the pace in the third act. The story takes its sweet ass time building up the religious tension before unleashing zealous hell on the viewer. We get a great deal of character development but the story needs more pivotal moments that build on the characters and story development. With that being said, the story is all too real. Religious fanatics have been doing "God's work" for decades now and it is truly a scary thing. This really made the film worth watching. Finally, the film has several deaths but they are done off screen with only the sound effects to be heard. We do get a little glimpse at the effects, which are decent, but the viewer is robbed of the deaths. Overall, She Who Must Burn is a very effective religious thriller that brings the horrors of real life to your screen. The story does have room for improvement but it still find it's mark. This one is definitely worth checking out.