Westerns today tend to be extravagant projects. This was not the case in their glory days when the genre meant inexpensive movies with lesser known actors and simplified plots. They were the bottom half of the double-bill.
Dead Man’s Burden by filmmaker Jared Moshe is a throwback to this type of movies that were mostly shot in one location and has four characters in a very basic storyline. And yet, the film is surprising absorbing that you find yourself watching until the end.
The movie opens with a murder. Clare Bowen is a homesteader who shoots an older man, who is revealed to be her father. The reason for killing him is still unknown. What is clear is that she wants her brother (Barlow Jacobs) to know about the crime.
The brother is a deserter from the Union Army who just got home. Although it is not specified in the movie, it looks like Dead Man’s Burden is set on the Southern border around 1870. To make things more complicated, Bowen’s husband arrives with a guy from the city who wants to buy the family farm. His offer is too low compared to the fair market price.
Dead Man’s Burden has a runtime of 93 minutes. If you add 10 to 15 minutes to it, the movie will be just like the classics. It uses its time well with no energy wasted. The tension escalates little by little until it reaches the climax.
The four actors gave out performances that are just right for the Western. Despite its low budget, it feels like a proper one. Director Moshe shot the movie on 35mm. He utilizes photochemical sensitivity to brighten the scenes for his two big action sequences.
Dead Man’s Burden has a simple story and the ending circles back to the beginning. Overall, it feels like an authentic Western and a must see for fans of the genre.