Larry Kent Sets the World Ablaze with She Who Must Burn [Fantasia Fest]

A woman in a car with a young passenger in the back seat

Larry Kent's horrific She Who Must Burn chills the blood with its only slightly exaggerated visions of a world that demonizes abortions and the people who work to help women choose. A pioneer in Canadian film making, Kent is being honored with the Trailblazer Award at Fantasia 2023. It premiered at Fantasia in 2015 and is the last feature film Kent created -- so far. 

This low budget horror makes up for its small budget with simple but effective casting, music, and cinematography. Directed by Kent and co-written by Kent and Shane Twerdun, the movie stars James Wilson, Sarah Smyth, Andrew Dunbar, Missy Cross, Jim Francis, and Jewel Staite.

A frightening foray into the ever-present debate between pro-life and pro-choice, She Who Must Burn depicts a world where religious zealots have the power and live beyond the law.

Description of plot: The movie begins with a shooting at a clinic where abortions are performed. One Abraham Baarker enters and shoots the doctor. Months later, the clinic has now shut down. Angela chooses to keep providing basic services from her home, including prescribing birth control and offering reproductive counseling. The Baarker family find her work offensive, even though she herself isn't performing any abortions. For the most part, the Baarkers wage a war of attrition against Angela, encouraging their followers to hold picket signs, yell insults, and try to wear Angela down. But when Angela helps Jeremiah Baarker's abused wife flee their marriage, the actions escalate from attrition to outright violence.

[L-R]: Shane Twerdun as JEREMIAH, Missy Cross as REBECCA, Andrew Dunbar as CALEB in SHE WHO MUST BURN

She Who Must Burn reminds me very much of the original Wicker Man in plot, with religious fervor climaxing in a lynching of flames, but more recently, films like Christian Tafdrup's Speak No Evil and Madeleine Sims-Fewer & Dusty Mancinelli's Violation posit world where the neighbor next door becomes a monster. 

Screening during Fantasia Fest 2023. Go here for all of my Fantasia 2023 coverage. 

Final score: 4.5 out of 5