Frightfest: The Ones You Didn't Burn (2022)

Director: Elise Finnerty

Running Time: 70 Minutes

Starring: Nathan Wallace, Jenna Rose Sander, Elise Finnerty, Estelle Girard Parks, Samuel Dunning

In the wake of their father's passing, estranged siblings Nate (Nathan Wallace) and Mira (Jenna Rose Sander) return to their family farm intending to sell it. Old ghosts resurface as Nate begins having vivid nightmares of a woman rising from the sea, forcing him to feel the dread his father felt before his death. Mira meanwhile grows close to the farmhands, ancestors of the people her family exploited, as darker forces result in a re-examination of the land's dark history.

Writer/director Elise Finnerty crafts a slow-burn mood piece about generational curses, where past sins are never forgotten. The atmosphere creeps up on viewers as matters grow more unsettling, accompanied by whispers of "we never forgot" haunting the screen. While this is in relation to a family whose land was long stolen from them, only to be used to help their usurpers make their livelihood, it rings as voices of abuse victims refusing to be kept down. When social media can be used to shame victims and rally in support of abusers, it feels very timely.

As brother and sister struggle with grief differently, they're forced to examine their lives and relationship in ways which sets them on differing paths. A trip to the beach shows how the pair cannot spend time without arguing, as Mira becomes annoyed at Nate turning a conversation into a pity party for himself. The longer these two spend at the farm, the more of an understanding is had for who they are.

While Mira arrived wanting to move on from the past and return to her life, she finds herself at peace and discovers a purpose to quell the self-loathing inside her. She comes to understand that difficult choices must be made to move forward, including shedding what's been weighing her down for so long. At the same time, Nate returns unsure of what's the correct course of action regarding the farm only to face temptation with addiction. As he regresses into destructive behaviour, a refusal to be left behind leaves him to react in volatile ways where male violence rears its ugly head towards women. The cycle of abuse tragically continues, barrelling towards an unforgettable ending in this blistering feature debut.

The Ones You Didn't Burn made its International Premiere at Frightfest 2022