Stars: Sabrina Kern, Carolyn Hennesy, Courtney Halverson, Seth Michaels, Trin Miller, Jason Warner Smith, Justin Miles
Writers: Andy Demetrio, Shaun Fletcher, Sara Sometti Michaels, Clint Sears
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Distributor: Uncork’d Entertainment
Release Date (theatrical and on demand): February 8, 2019
ST AGATHA will remind horror fans of everything from ROSEMARY’S BABY to THE BEGUILED to the SAW films. It’s not so much that director Darren Lynn Bousman (who, not coincidentally, helmed SAW II, III, and IV) and screenwriters Andy Demetrio, Shaun Fletcher, Sara Sometti Michaels, and Clint Sears are trying to copy the plots of those other features. Rather, ST. AGATHA evokes the saturated atmosphere of those earlier works, and occasionally generates a similar sense of menace.
However, in what’s actually happening, ST. AGATHA more closely resembles the fact-based dramas THE MAGDALENE SISTERS and PHILOMENA. It’s just not clear whether the filmmakers know this. This issue isn’t that they may not be aware of those last two movies, but rather that we can’t tell whether they’re trying to comment on actual historical tragedy, or whether they think they’ve invented something that was less uncommon in its time than ST. AGATHA would have it.
We’re in 1957 Georgia, not a great time or place to be pregnant, single, and broke. Mary (Sabrina Kern) is all of the above. She seeks shelter at a convent that has a reputation as a haven for unwed expectant mothers. The Mother Superior (Carolyn Hennesy) says that Mary she can leave at any time. While Mary is at the convent, though, she will be a postulant to the order. Mary is to observe silence, work from dawn until dusk, and be obedient. Mother Superior is frank about the fact that the convent is no longer funded by the Church, but rather by generous local donors.
Given how seriously Mother Superior takes disobedience, the young women who are Mary’s peers are surprisingly chatty. Between what she hears, deduces, and experiences, Mary decides she wants to leave. This is not as easy as Mother Superior made it sound.
Mary is given a haunted and haunting back story. However, this doesn’t work as seems intended. It’s hard to imagine exactly how else Mary would behave even if she hadn’t been through the wringer before becoming pregnant. ST. AGATHA’s efforts to keep us guessing whether something supernatural is happening or if we’re simply witnessing the results of sadism likewise tend to be more puzzling than intriguing. When we do find out what’s going on, it’s such a strange take on the subject matter that it raises all kinds of distracting questions about intent and messaging and flow of information.
These questions might not be quite so problematic if ST. AGATHA hung together better, but the filmmakers are so focused on moving from one scare and/or gross-out to the next (there are a few that have nothing to do with gore) that they neglect story structure. Kern is good, but her role is underwritten, despite the flashbacks to Mary’s past. The jump scares work, and the disgusting moments show inventiveness. Still, we never feel caught up in a nightmare. For all of the foreboding visuals, once we work on what’s happening, we’re less afraid than impatient.
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Article Source: Assignment X
Article: Movie Review: ST. AGATHA