Review: St. Agatha

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

PLOT: Mary is a young woman looking to make a positive change, and give her unborn child promise of a new life. However, her hopes turn to nightmares as she finds herself at a convent for wayward girls, one that hides a few horrifying secrets that are about to be revealed.

REVIEW: Religion has always been an interesting subject matter when it comes to horror. Whether it is a classic feature like THE EXORCIST, or one of the many end of the world scenarios, there is something intrinsically scary about that particular sub-genre. In ST. AGATHA, the latest from Darren Lynn Bousman, the exploration is less on the supernatural and more on a very real and frighteningly depraved human level. The focus here is on a young girl seeking help in a convent, one that is filled with dark and disquieting secrets. Taking place in the 1950’s, this impressive thriller burrows into your subconscious revealing the brutal nature of a group of nuns who are seemingly trying to help women in trouble – in other words, unwed mothers.

Sabrina Kern is Mary, a young woman desperately trying to make a life with her boyfriend Jimmy (Justin Miles). The two try and con random men out of their gambling money, in hopes of making a life for both to escape their past. However, when she discovers that she is expecting a child, she finds herself on a  journey leading to a secretive convent for wayward girls. Once there, she comes to the realization that the harsh nature of the inhabitants – including a cruel Mother Superior (Carolyn Hennesy) – may not have been the best decision to make. The closer she gets to the truth, the more terrifyingly clear her situation becomes. If she doesn’t escape soon, she may never get out alive.

st agatha darren lynn bousman horror arrow in the head AITH sabrina kern justin miles hannah fierman carolyn hennesy 2019One of the most fascinating things about the latest from Mr. Bousman, is just how unsettling this story is. While clearly the filmmaker is known for a few gory flicks including his work with the SAW franchise, he has created a harrowing tale with this creepy low budget feature. Beautifully directed with an impressive set design – as well as a solid script credited to Andy Demetrio, Shaun Fletcher, Sara Sometti Michaels and Clint Sears – his latest gives the director the chance to tell a very different kind of story. The religious aspect is quite eerie, as is the cruel and inhuman treatment that the girls go through. It is set in a realistic environment, one that is stylishly done creating a hauntingly impressive nightmare. The tension builds as Mary learns more about this grim world she has found herself in, making for a powerfully wicked fright fest.

Aside from the unsettling images and striking look of the film, Sabrina Kern is another terrific reason to watch. The actress plays Mary with the perfect amount of vulnerability with hidden strength. As weak as she may get throughout, she never quits putting up a fight, and Ms. Kern brings truth to her character. As well, the relationship she shares with her fellow cast members gives the audience even more reason to care. Whether it is Hannah Fierman – who is terrific as a friend to Mary also locked away at the convent – or the talented Justin Miles as her boyfriend, it is easy to care about her awful predicament.  Yet it is the insanely complex relationship that she shares with Mother Superior that brings real tension to the film. Hennesy offers the perfect balance of sternness and cruelty without missing a beat.

st agatha darren lynn bousman horror AITH arrow in the head sabrina kern justin miles hannah fierman carolyn hennesy 2019As mentioned, there is very little gore here, but it isn’t needed. Although, rarely do I find myself as grossed out by an image as I did during one seriously grueling moment. In one particularly horrific dinner sequence, a young woman is forced to endure something so vile, that it was quite difficult to watch. Even still, Mr. Bousman handled the sequence with skill, and by not showing every graphic detail it feels all the more uncomfortable. This may be a slow burn, but the hour and half run time moves quickly as it pulls you into Mary’s descent. Even the title comes from a psychologically twisted idea that makes it all the more easy to find compassion for Mary and how she ultimately is placed at the mercy of the convent.

ST. AGATHA presents a truly frightening tale, yet it is far from your typical horror film. Darren Lynn Bousman constructs a deep sense of dread as we follow a young girl into a disturbingly heartbreaking situation. The film’s star, Sabrina Kern is fantastic with her layered and emotionally complex performance. As well, the supporting cast help to create an involving thriller. This includes Hennesy, Fierman, Miles, as well as Courtney Halverson and Seth Michaels. With the religious imagery and a foreboding sense of horror, this is yet another solid tale from the director. While the final sequence didn’t quite connect with me personally, as it felt a bit rushed, it still managed to provoke serious chills that remained well after the film ended. In an age of smart horror, this is yet another example of taking a familiar horror trope and making it into something truly fresh and chill inducing.

St. Agatha



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