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’The Ones You Didn’t Burn’ review: Dir. Elise Finnerty [FrightFest]

After their father passes away, siblings Nathan (Nathan Wallace) and Mirra (Jenna Rose Sander) return to the family farm with the intent of selling it. Upon arrival they awaken a centuries-old curse tied to their bloodline. 

The Ones You Didn't Burn

A first-time feature by writer, producer, and actor, Elise Finnerty, The Ones You Didn’t Burn is a slow and solid character study. The material sifts through familial bonds, responsibilities, grief, and addiction. At the same time, dark forces are at play, gently working themselves into and around both Nathan and Mirra. This presence ensnares and tangles around the two with the siblings almost entirely unaware, leading them down dangerous roads from which they may never return. There’s an ever-present sense of something creepy lurking that, whilst Nathan and Mirra are oblivious, the viewer is not. Placed in the position of seeing all, the audience are let in on the sinister aspects early, generating an air of unease. 

Finnerty’s debut has some exciting imagery. Once home, Nathan begins to experience strange dreams and hallucinations. These are stunningly rendered and realised. His visions revolve around the sea and there are some haunting sequences of things crawling out of the ocean. Accompanying this striking image is a sky that looks deadly. It’s a mixture of black, inky blue and greens, and as with so many other things displayed in the film, although it looks beautiful, there’s an apprehension about what lurks within. Outside of these visuals, much of The Ones You Didn’t Burn is spent on the sunshine-soaked rural grounds of the farm. 

The rural setting rips the story from the present and allows it to exist somewhat free of time constraints. Mirra has a laptop and both have mobile phones, but the technology is pushed into the background and so this tale has the ability to exist almost out of time. This feeling is integral to the curse aspect of the plot. The siblings are just the latest in what has become a vicious cycle of victims. Their family is the target of vengeance following the actions of Nathan and Mirra’s ancestors. It’s a classic case of the sins of the father being laid upon the children; the reasons that are revealed have a real-world resonance as Finnerty makes a statement about America’s bloody history.

With so many dangers lurking around, the typical structure would facilitate the reconnection of Nathan and Mirra. This doesn’t happen here though. Rather than having a return home ignite warm feelings, in this instance, it causes more of a rift. All past irritations and ill-will rise to the surface and the two are slowly pulled apart. Some of this distance comes in the form of others separating them and so there’s not many scenes where the pair share the screen. Once back home, addict Nathan is immediately sucked back into drugs and booze thanks to former schoolmate Greg (Samuel Dunning). His decline in sobriety causes Mirra to recede from Nathan. She seeks solace in the company of farmworkers Alice (played by Finnerty) and Scarlett (Estelle Girard Parks), and finds in them a sisterhood. The more she connects to them, the further the rift between brother and sister becomes. This slow movement of characters places everyone in position for the bittersweet finale. 

Finnerty takes time to consider every aspect of her story. It’s a move that will frustrate those who prefer their films punchier and to the point, but neither of these is what The Ones You Didn’t Burn purports to be. Fitting in nicely alongside The Dark and the Wicked and What Josiah Saw, fans of either will find themselves a new favourite slow-burn tale of the destruction of family. The Ones You Didn’t Burn arouses the viewer’s curiosity, slowly drip-feeding morsels of mystery and unease.

The Ones You Didn’t Burn

Kat Hughes

The Ones You Didn’t Burn


The Ones You Didn’t Burn has that steady, dark, brooding atmosphere that both What Josiah Saw and The Dark and the Wicked tapped into. Here the foreboding sense of dread isn’t as suffocating as it is in either of those films, but still has enough to keep the viewer gripped.


The Ones You Didn’t Burn was reviewed at Arrow Video FrightFest 2022. 

Kat Hughes is a UK born film critic and interviewer who has a passion for horror films. An editor for THN, Kat is also a Rotten Tomatoes Approved Critic. She has bylines with Ghouls Magazine, Arrow Video, Film Stories, Certified Forgotten and FILMHOUNDS and has had essays published in home entertainment releases by Vinegar Syndrome and Second Sight. When not writing about horror, Kat hosts micro podcast Movies with Mummy along with her five-year-old daughter.


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