Abortions are bad, crazy religious nuts are bad and thunderstorms...are...bad. Wait, what was that last one? Well, apparently when hardcore bible thumpers take umbrage with a local abortion counselor the only thing stopping the sheriff from locking these folks up is an ominous (and apparently deadly) thunderstorm. That weirdness aside, She Who Must Burn is an at times nasty little religious cult flick that cares about as much for nuance as it does for fake dead babies.
Larry Kent's film joins the ranks of recent religious thrillers such as The Sacrament and Kevin Smith's Red State. Placing seemingly innocent people in the crosshairs of Christ fearing people with dangerous agendas. In She Who Must Burn it's Angela (Sarah Smyth), a counselor from a defunct planned-parenthood clinic who ticks off three devout church members who's leader was recently jailed for murdering doctors at other area abortion clinics. Then they all lived happily ever after....obviously.
No, Kent is not interested in providing viewers with a warm fuzzy and ensuring you sleep well at night with the assurance that humanity is well and good. The filmmaker makes sure those hopes are snuffed out in an early genuinely human moment of heartbreak that turns into a horrifying act of anger- the aforementioned fake dead baby may or may not be involved. In this moment though, Kent is able to convey a duality lurking in even those who are devout in their belief- in this case both love and anger. However, Kent cannot quite find the balance between tipping the scale of morality and blatant hypocrisy when it comes to his central religious zealots.
She Who Must Burn straddles the line of horror and drama simply by playing with the idea of ultra conservative nutjobs whose religion finds a better definition under "cult" in the dictionary. Opening with the brutal murder of an abortion doctor all the way to the very name of the film itself, Kent is never subtle about who the bad guy is or what themes he's playing around with. The indie filmmaker is careful to play things too over-the-top with just how crazy his villains are- at least until one of the aforementioned nutjobs, Rebecca (Missy Cross), starts babbling in what I can only assume is gibberish in some of the films most unsettling and unintentionally funny moments.
Character actions sometimes feel a bit forced in service to make said actions shocking. Still it's the willingness of the baddies to commit dastardly deeds yet pray to a higher power that much more frightening, but plays towards the hypocrisy. Perhaps it is that perceived weakness that makes Kent's film feel more complex than it seems on the surface. The finale is a whirlwind of indie film brutality and confusion that might be a little too thin to hold up to much debate, but one thing is certain...it burns.
Larry Kent's She Who Must Burn is a piece of performance art first and a straight up horror flick third. The performances are not always the glue holding the film together and the drama is never as affective as it can be, yet somehow as it all comes together the film works. She Who Must Burn is a modern day witch hunt that's light on subtlety but heavy on the punch.