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St. Agatha Movie Review

Written by Stuart D. Monroe

Released by Uncork’d Entertainment

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Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman
Written by Andy Demetrio, Shaun Fletcher, Sara Sometti Michaels, Clint Sears
2019, 90 minutes, Not Rated
Released on February 8th, 2019

Starring:
Sabrina Kern as Mary
Carolyn Hennesy as Mother Superior
Courtney Halverson as Catherine
Seth Michaels as Father Andrew
Trin Miller as Paula

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Review:

While religious horror never goes out of style, nuns are experiencing a bit of a renaissance in recent years with movies like The Nun, Welcome to Mercy, and Luciferina. As the trappings of religion become more and more ragged and moth-eaten, people are drawn ever closer to seeing behind the veil, and horror is the ripest genre for all that revelatory exposure. When combined that with a director like Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw 2, Repo: The Genetic Opera), I was mighty intrigued, so I threw on my finest wimple and headed to the convent for some nunsploitation done period-piece style.

The year is 1957, and Mary (Sabrina Kern) is a con woman who’s in the family way thanks to her grifter boyfriend. She’s desperate after a turn of bad luck, so she heads to the Sisters of Divinity to have her baby in safety. Once there she’s greeted by the stern and scar-faced Sister Paula (Trin Miller; The Invoking) and ushered in to see the surprisingly vibrant and sexy Mother Superior (Carolyn Hennesy; General Hospital). Mary knows that something is amiss at the convent (bear traps around the crumbling house and no clear road into the highly overgrown grounds?), but she gives it a chance. Faster than you can say “Hail Mary” she’s exposed to whispered secrets and shocking acts of punishment and torture. It’s clear she can’t escape, but once she realizes the enormity of what is happening, the question becomes can she simply walk away? Also, there’s that baby to consider…

Immediate confession: I grew up with soaps playing in the background (my childhood was the ‘80s). This means I watched a fair amount of them, since we were too broke for cable. I’ve always felt that there are many fine actors/actresses who spend decades on daytime TV and aren’t properly appreciated. Carolyn Hennesy is one of them, and she is picture perfect for the role of Mother Superior. She’s clearly not a real holy woman…and she is clearly very committed to what she is doing at the Sisters of Divinity. She’s also utterly wicked. Every scene Hennesy is in she completely owns. She is the driving force of St. Agatha.

I don’t want to neglect Sabrina Kern, Trin Miller, and Courtney Halverson. They all handle their parts with aplomb. Mary is a brave and resourceful character, the perfect foil to Mother Superior. The overall chemistry of the cast is pretty solid and held together by top-notch set design and location. The aging (i.e. borderline dilapidated) house is a wonder; it’s a brothel dressed up as a convent like an aging porn star about to make some serious blasphemy. The whole of St. Agatha is like that – it’s about what’s going on behind the scenes.

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The color palette is also excellent. The various shades of light beaming in from the outside world are used to symbolically set the tone of whatever comes next, be it through cracked walls or stained glass. The presence of high, powerful crosses or authority figures in the background on a regular basis isn’t subtle, but it is the height of symbolic message. This is religious horror, after all.

This is also the man who gave us Saw 2, and his stamp is unmissable. The gore is sparingly effective, and the torture is cringe-inducing. I’ll leave out the context to avoid spoilers, but when you can get forced vomit-eating, tongue mutilation, the aforementioned bear traps, and the best use of an umbilical cord that I’ve ever seen into one movie then you know it’s a Bousman film. Given the trailer, I was almost surprised that St. Agatha has that much of an edge.

The pacing is uneven in the first half, and it takes a while to get going. That’s not to say that the tension isn’t wonderfully built, but it is noticeable. When the tone of a film so clearly has your brain screaming, “SOMETHING IS VERY WRONG HERE!” then you don’t need to take a ton of time to get there, ya’ know? Once the second half kicks in and high gear starts to roar, it makes the first half feel almost out of place. The music is also a bit parodic; lots of chanty, stringy, The Omen style stuff that seemingly every religious horror movie beats like a dead horse.

Still, you’ll find that St. Agatha hits many of the right notes on the organ of religious doom by staying away from the demonic possession or opening the pits of Hell angles that are so often at the core of this subgenre and instead making the real monsters the people who exploit the system.

Kind of relevant, wouldn’t you say?

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Grades:

Movie: Threeandahalfstars St Agatha Small
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About The Author
Stuart Monroe
Staff Writer
Stuart D. Monroe is a man of many faces – father, husband, movie reviewer, published author of short horror, unsuccessful screenwriter (for now), rabid Clemson Tiger, Southern gentleman, and one hell of a model American who goes by the handle "Big Daddy Stu" or "Sir". He's also highly disturbed and wears that fact like a badge of honor. He is a lover of all things horror with a particular taste for the fare of the Italians and the British. He sometimes gets aroused watching the hardcore stuff, but doesn't bother worrying about whether he was a serial killer in a past life as worrying is for the weak. He was raised in the video stores of the '80s and '90s. The movie theater is his cathedral. He worships H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Clive Barker. When he writes, he listens obsessively to either classical music or the works of Goblin to stimulate the neural pathways. His favorite movie is Dawn of the Dead. His favorite book is IT. His favorite TV show is LOST.
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