Written by: Andy Demetrio, Shaun Fletcher, Sara Sometti Michaels, Clint Sears
Starring: Sabrina Kern, Carolyn Hennesy, Courtney Halverson
Quick synopsis: In 1957, a young woman, Mary, attempts to grift her way to freedom. Feeling trapped by her abusive father, she relies on her boyfriend, Jimmy, to help her bilk other men out of their money. The pair hatch a grand plan to take her brother and run off. They never make it. Mary’s brother dies in a tragic accident. Distraught, she finally leaves her father; only to find herself broke, pregnant, and single not long after. A group of slightly creepy nuns invite her to stay with them until the child is born. It doesn’t take long for Mary to realize she’s made a mistake, but it’s too late.
Let’s just address the elephant in the room right off the bat. Nothing about pregnancy in this movie is believable. Hard to imagine considering about half the primary cast plays pregnant women, but here we are. It’s not just one glaring issue, like the sudden recovery at the end in order for Mary to do that thing she does with the umbilical cord, but a slew of details throughout the entire movie which makes it impossible to suspend belief for nearly two hours. The audience is expected to believe that a group of physically and emotionally tormented young women, without adequate medical care or proper nutritional care, all carry their babies to term. Not only that, but these babies are then healthy enough to survive. Did no one look at mother/infant mortality rates in the 1950s? If the film gets the main plot point wrong, why should an audience stick through to the woefully predictable end?
Visually, the movie is good. Not great, just good. And, frankly, it’s super disappointing coming from a director who worked on nearly half the Saw films, not to mention the stunning visual feast that is Abattoir. A lot of the “shocking” visual moments in St. Agatha are just confusing. For instance, Mary is haunted by delusions throughout the last two acts. Supposedly she had them before arriving at the convent, but there’s little evidence of that. When she endures all these weird visions later in the movie, it feels forced, and comes across like the film’s production team is gaslighting the character right alongside the antagonists. One might argue that the delusions are there to ramp up the horror factor. But on the flipside, these visions aren’t clear enough or startling enough to incite more than a head tilt. Even the jump-scare moments fall flat and dredge up more questions than a true feeling of unease.
What’s worse is the audience never really gets to know any of the women well enough to care for their well-being. They’re walking, talking props for a story that could have been told in better, scarier ways. By using a “vow of silence” for the pregnant characters, it robs them of truly humanizing moments. Aside from a few whispered conversations, we learn next to nothing about the history of the women or how they came to rely on the nuns for help. They are walking wombs. While that would be a good talking point about how everyone treats pregnant characters across the whole genre, all it does in this movie is make the audience not give a damn. Considering the plot, that is exactly the opposite of how we should feel about these poor women.
Despite lackluster writing, bad editing, and logistical errors, the acting isn’t half bad. Carolyn Hennesy (General Hospital) is the perfect choice for the Mother Superior role. With one snarl, she conveys a depth of character that may not otherwise happen with another actress in the role. For having only few projects under her belt, Sabrina Kern delivers a solid performance as Mary; which makes her feel like a common face in the genre. She’s got survivor woman potential running out her ears. And this is the project she used all that talent on? Kern deserved a better script, honestly. One can hope she’ll find a higher quality film to get her name out there, because St. Agatha is not the title that’ll launch her to stardom.
Overall, St. Agatha lacks heart. The potential for the story far exceeds what the production team were able to accomplish. There’s one or two actual scares hidden in a multitude of sloppy horror tropes slammed together in a desperate attempt to create tension where there is none. Folks are only watching this because Bousman’s name catches their attention and it’s a new release on Netflix.