Everyone hates being on hold, and that’s where Alex (Elizabeth Cotter) finds herself at the beginning of writer/director Brady Hall’s (7 Witches, Polterchrist) latest film, Burn It All. What’s worse is she’s calling the suicide hotline and she’s been waiting nearly an hour. Her wait is interrupted by a call from her hometown, her estranged mother has had a stroke and probably won’t survive. It’s a grim start to a grim tale of revenge.
Alex left town years ago after her mother forced her to stay in an abusive relationship with Travis (Ryan Postell), something only ended after he went after her underage sister Jenny (Emily Gately, The Final Level: Escaping Rancala).
On arrival, she finds out that Travis is now the local County Deputy. And that her mother has already died and her body sent for cremation, something that doesn’t sound right to her. She soon finds out there’s an organ-harvesting ring operating out of the hospital. And she already knows too much.
Burn It All is an action film first and foremost. But it also has some more serious themes running through it. There is a strong subtext about male/female dynamics and gender inequality. Alex has been treated like shit by just about every man she’s met. She had enough even before these backwoods body snatchers started mansplaining things to her. Underestimating her because she’s a woman is a mistake they’ll only make once. Granted there are times when Burn It All gets a little too heavy-handed. Having one of the gang listening to a man’s rights type podcast for example. There’s a difference between a strong message and an overpowering one.
There’s also an interesting point raised by Travis when Alex confronts him. He claims the organ harvesters are good for the town. With traditional means of making a living there gone, he says, their money is all that’s keeping the town alive. With the hardships of rural America in the news so much this could have been an interesting subplot, unfortunately, it’s raised then pretty much ignored.
As a low-budget and very indie action film Burn It All isn’t bad. There obviously wasn’t the budget for large-scale scenes of mayhem or fancy stunts. But we do get plenty of well-choreographed fight scenes as Alex is forced to take matters into her own hands. Then just as the plot seems to be winding down, Hall raises the stakes by having the villains go after Jenny in order to force her sister’s hand. This sets up not only the barroom brawl that is the film’s action highlight but some nice dramatic scenes between the two sisters.
I also have to give Hall credit for a nice bit of misdirection in the final confrontation between Alex and the gang’s leader, known only as King (John Branch, The Unquenchable Thirst for Beau Nerjoose). What looks like it’s going to be another heavy-handed rant plays out much differently than I anticipated.
As I mentioned, Burn It All is a very low-budget film and at times that shows. There’s a rough around the edges look to it in several scenes and some of the performances are equally rough. It actually makes the film seem more like a 70s or 80s drive-in/straight to VHS film than a lot of films that try to be retro. so, while it’s not the typical glossy female revenge film like Army of One, or as brutal as I Spit on Your Grave it’s still an entertaining watch. Elizabeth Cotter’s Alex looks like a woman who’s been through hell and came out tough enough to fight a war. And it’s fun to watch when she does it.