The Burned Over District (2022)

The title of this movie comes from Autobiography of Charles G. Finney, in which the author discusses the religious revivals and Second Great Awakening of the western and central regions of New York State in the early 19th century:

“I found that region of country what, in the western phrase, would be called, a “burnt district.” There had been, a few years previously, a wild excitement passing through that region, which they called a revival of religion, but which turned out to be spurious. It was reported as having been a very extravagant excitement; and resulted in a reaction so extensive and profound, as to leave the impression on many minds that religion was a mere delusion. A great many men seemed to be settled in that conviction. Taking what they had seen as a specimen of a revival of religion, they felt justified in opposing anything looking toward the promoting of a revival.”

This movie takes place near Rochester, NY in the winter, a time when Will Pleasance (John Harvey Sheedy) is in mourning over the death of his wife Natalie (Sarah Santizo) in an accident that was his fault. His sister Katie (Amy Zubieta) is trying to help, but oddly he catches his mother Michelle (Connie Neer) stealing his dead wife’s valuables!

Will is a mess and one day, he gets busted for being drunk and disorderly. After Katies bails him out, some strange sounds and symbols in the woods lure her out to a ritual where she watches her mother getting sacrificed. The cult follows her home and soon subjects her and her brother to a series of torments. Things get only wilder from there, as the dark elder god in the sky must be appeased through bloodletting in the woods.

James and Vincent Coleman, the directors and writers of this movie, have created an interesting folk horror film that definitely has a strong visual look. They’re also behind Halloween: Inferno, a series of fan Haddonfield films.

I’ve often felt that small towns have their own soul just as much as the people who live within them. The Burned Over District is about the war between darkness and light for one such place.

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