Arrow Video FrightFest 2022: The Ones You Didn’t Burn Is a Slow Burn That’s Worth the Wait

The Ones You Didn’t Burn is a great example of why I love film festivals like FrightFest. I had never heard of this movie before I found it on the FrightFest schedule, but the plot synopsis was interesting enough that I decided to take a chance on it. And I’m super glad I did.

The Ones You Didn’t Burn was directed by Elise Finnerty, and it stars Elise Finnerty, Samuel Dunning, Estelle Girard Parks, Jenna Rose Sander, and Nathan Wallace. It’s about siblings Nathan and Mirra who return to their father’s farm after his passing to clean the place up and prepare to sell it, but after they arrive, an ancient curse connected to the land’s original owners threatens to tear them apart.

I have to be honest, as much as I ended up liking The Ones You Didn’t Burn, I didn’t feel that way right from the start. When the film began, I was actually pretty underwhelmed for a large portion of the first act. See, for the first half hour or so, the story gives only a slight hint of the horrors it has in store for us. It focuses almost entirely on the characters, and when I first met them, I wasn’t a huge fan.

Most notably, Nathan was just too subdued for my tastes, and Mirra wasn’t on screen enough for me to really have much of an opinion about her, so I had trouble connecting with them on an emotional level. They just didn’t do much for me, and since they’re the main characters, I thought I wasn’t going to like the movie.

But I was so wrong. After about 15 or 20 minutes, these characters began to grow on me, and I came to really like them. In particular, Nathan and Mirra’s relationship came to the fore and started to feel real, so the two of them came more alive as individuals as well. I felt like I was getting to know them better, and that allowed me to forge an emotional connection with them, which in turn started to get me on board with the movie as a whole.

A woman in white with long hair

However, I still wasn’t entirely sure if I was liking The Ones You Didn’t Burn. The first act works really well as setup, but that’s pretty much all it is. I felt like the story needed to stick the landing to make that first half hour worthwhile, so I didn’t have any concrete feelings about the film either way.

Then, at the 30-minute mark, the horror slowly begins to kick into gear. It starts to give some slight hints about what’s really going on, and as the story progresses, it slowly unfolds its secrets at the perfect pace. I found every step of this journey super intriguing, so my eyes were glued to the screen the entire time.

That being said, I do have to admit that The Ones You Didn’t Burn is a bit predictable in a certain sense, but in a weird way, that’s not actually a bad thing. See, in broad strokes, it’s not hard to tell where the story is going. It’s the type of plot we’ve seen numerous times before, so if you’re a longtime horror veteran, it’ll probably seem pretty familiar to you.

But the details are a different story. I didn’t know exactly how everything was going to play out, and that’s what had me hooked. In fact, I was so intrigued by the details of this story that I didn’t even care if the main thrust of the plot was easy to guess.

The mystery here is just that good, and when The Ones You Didn’t Burn starts to pull back the curtain and give us some answers, it gets even more intriguing. The film does a great job of raising more questions as it gives us bits and pieces of the answers, so it easily kept my interest the whole way through.

A man pulling something from his mouth

Then, when we get to the finale, the movie totally sticks the landing. It feels like you were always heading towards that ending even though you didn’t know it, and while it never goes all out with the horror, there is one moment that’s pretty creepy.

And speaking of the horror, that’s probably the one area where I have to give a bit of a caveat. While The Ones You Didn’t Burn is definitely a horror story, the execution often feels more like a drama. Other than that one creepy scene at the end, it’s relatively light on scares. It’s more about the atmosphere and the eerie mystery, and while that’s totally fine by me, I know that’s not every genre fan’s cup of tea.

More importantly, there are also a bunch of dream sequences that didn’t work at all for me, and that’s my one real gripe with this movie. Now, I’m not a huge fan of dream sequences in general, and I know a lot of people feel the same way, but the mere fact that they were dream sequences isn’t what bothered me here. They play a legitimate role in the narrative, so I get why they were there. Instead, my issue was with the execution. I felt like these scenes were supposed to be super creepy, but they just fell really flat for me. I wasn’t affected by them in any way, so they actually took me out of the story a tiny bit.

But in the grand scheme of things, that’s just a minor nitpick. On the whole, I enjoyed the hell out of The Ones You Didn’t Burn. It’s an excellent supernatural mystery with likable characters and an intriguing story, so if this sounds like something you’d enjoy, I highly recommend that you check it out if you get the chance.

The Ones You Didn’t Burn is playing at Arrow Video FrightFest on August 27.

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Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong horror fan. From a very early age, he learned to love monsters, ghosts, and all things spooky, and it's still his favorite genre today.

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