The Chattanooga Film Festival starts strong with this after hours opening night selection
My first film at this year’s Chattanooga Film Festival was Elise Finnerty’s feature length debut, the atmospheric little slice of folk horror The Ones You Didn’t Burn. The film is the story of a pair of adult siblings, Natan (Nathan Wallace) and MIrra (Jenna Rose Sander) who after the suicide of their father return to the farm where they were raised to settle their affairs and sell off the land. The crux of the narrative is Nathan, who is a recovering addict discovers the land was cursed when it was taken by his ancestors from a coven of witches — who possibly drove his father mad and appear to have their sights set on his sister.
The film wisely spends its first act building its characters, allowing the grief to bake into the siblings, influencing and affecting them both in different ways. It’s a deliberate descent from there as Finnerty masterfully introduces supernatural elements and allows the story of the curse to seep in the cracks. It’s something that infused too quickly would have caused a distraction from the very human story that is so captivatingly brought to life by Nathan Wallace, Jenna Rose Sander, Elise Finnerty and Estelle Girard Parks. The film runs a lean 70 minutes without a wasted sentence or moment and it does so while still leaving us wanting more.
The Ones You Didn’t Burn was a strong start to this year’s Chattanooga Film Festival and also to the filmography of Elise Finnerty. It’s a film that doesn’t quite go where you expect, with an ending ambiguous, yet satisfying enough to keep you mulling it over after long the credits roll. I also really dug the character dynamics and how the relationships felt natural and relatable, even the not so positive ones. The Ones You Didn’t Burn is an engrossing supernatural slow burn, that is creepy as it is refreshingly poignant in its take on witchcraft. It’s a testament to indie filmmaking, where all you need is a few good actors and an interesting seed of an idea and the best filmmakers can go from there.