February 4, 2019 St. Agatha (Movie Review)
There will always be a great intrigue with all things religious in the Horror genre. St. Agatha is the newest offering into a subgenre that boasts such classics as 1973’s The Exorcist, and it arrives to On Demand and Digital HD on Friday, February 8, 2019, thanks to Uncork’d Entertainment.
In October 1957, unwed and pregnant, Mary (Sabrina Kern: Pretty Hurts mini-series, RGK & Sabrina Kern: Alone Land short 2017) finds herself on the doorstep of the Sisters of Divinity convent. Here, she is welcomed by Mother Superior (Carolyn Hennesy: General Hospital series, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines 2003) and her assistant, Paula (Trin Miller: The Invoking 2013, Captain Fantastic 2016). She is quickly informed that inside the walls of the convent she must leave behind her former life and its possessions, take a vow of silence, adhere to a strict schedule, and cater to the whims of Mother. “Mother’s approval is all you should concern yourself with,” Paula warns.
Despite the fact that the Vatican has closed its endless coffers to the convent, it continues to operate. Currently, there are three other girls in attendance: Sarah (Hannah Fierman: V/H/S 2012, American Hell 2014), who has already birthed her child; seven-month pregnant Doris (Lindsay Seim: Insidious: Chapter 2 2013, Blackbird 2014); and Catherine (Courtney Halverson: Red Clover 2012, Unfriended 2014).
With her mind frequently wandering to her boyfriend Jimmy (Justin Miles: The Crazies 2010, The Walking Dead series), the father of her unborn baby, Mary is finding it difficult to acclimate to life with the Sisters of Divinity. Oft consumed by memories of her alcoholic, abusive father (Jayson Warner Smith: The Walking Dead series, American Made 2017) and little brother William (Maximus Murrah: Bronco 2019), she is struggling with her past as well as her future. When it becomes apparent that life at the convent is not simply prayers and rosary beads, Mary must summon her courage if she hopes to save her unborn child.
St. Agatha was directed by Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II 2005, Abattoir 2016) and written by Andy Demetrio (The Full English series), Shaun Fletcher (Broken Ledge 2012, Exit 13 2014), Sara Sometti Michaels (The Doll Maker short 2016, The Photographer short 2016) and Clint Sears (Tales of Halloween 2015, Crow’s Blood 2016). It also features Rachael Gavrielli (Still Chicago 2014, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 2017); Seth Michaels (Pelé: Birth of a Legend 2016, Doom Patrol 2019); Marsha Fee Berger (Close Call 2004, The Test short 2006); Myles Cranford (Interwoven 2016, The Playground 2017); Marilyn Light (Stand Your Ground 2013, Bleed 2016); and Candy Rachor (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks 2017, 3X 2018).
There is a level of attention to detail that is required to relay a very specific time period to viewers. Recent films, such as 2018’s The Devil’s Doorway and Summer of ‘84, were champions at welcoming their audiences into their nostalgia. Sadly, St. Agatha does not succeed on this point, instead it creates an amorphous feel that is ‘not now’ but perhaps not even that long ago. This failure is a prime example that sets the tone for the film, one that is neither wholly good nor wholly bad, but one that would require a serious restructuring to reach its utmost potential.
With a 103-minute runtime, St. Agatha exceeds its welcome. The story here is a fairly banal entry into Religious Horror, one that sports a predictably twisted Mother Superior heading a convent full of wayward women. While the film is not entirely cliché or a complete loss, its tale could easily be shaved by 20-30 minutes with an improved outcome. That said, the cinematography here is beautifully authored and crisp, with moody color schemes that clearly relay visual cues for its accompanying story. There are moments where the audio is a bit crunchy, though these instances rarely detract from the on-screen action. In short, St. Agatha looks good, in fact, it looks damn good, and that’s a clear boost for a film that has its issues.
On the positive, the cast are all solid in their roles, with Kern doing a good job in her leading role as pregnant Mary. She easily relates the confusion and struggle of her initially conflicted character, and ultimately embodies the gall necessary to fight back against the powers that be. However, it is Hennesy, as the Mother Superior, who steals the entire show. Perfectly sinister in the most alluring sense, her voice is like black silk as she entices her young victims into her mad web. Hennesy is bold, establishing her twisted Mother Superior as one of the best in an already over-saturated field. Simply put, her seductive performance alone makes St. Agatha worth viewing.
Please note, a warning should accompany the film that it’s not for the faintest of heart, and it does contain some intentionally gratuitous disgustingness as well as a creative use of an umbilical cord as a garrote. The special effects makeup is spotty, with one particular scene depicting a poorly done scar on one actress’ back. Though this pales in comparison to a scene with a bear trap that is so poorly done that it should simply be removed from the film altogether.
Despite these flaws, St. Agatha somehow manages to be entertaining and watchable, if not the best entry into Religious Horror. While not scary or even creepy, Hennesy’s Mother Superior is brazen enough to make an impression. In short, with clear visual appeal, solid acting and several cringe-inducing scenes, St. Agatha is able to tread water. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock give St. Agatha 3.5 of 5 stars.