Starring Sabrina Kern, Carolyn Hennesy, Courtney Halverson
Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman
I remember when I was young the horror stories my own mother used to tell me about the nuns who were in charge when she went to school as a young child. The rapping of knuckles by hard wooden rulers, the open-handed swats to the cheek for insubordination, and various other little nuggets of info that led me to believe that these women of the cloth weren’t as saintly as perceived. Sure, other films have come along depicting these sinless sisters as anything but doing the work of God… then I recently checked out Darren Lynn Bousman’s latest, St. Agatha; and if the man upstairs needs a vengeful congregation of sadistic postulants, then look no further.
The year is 1957, and the film follows young unmarried, pregnant, and scoundrel-like Mary (Kern), a woman whose tastes for the slightly illegal side of things have led her to a nearby convent while her grifter boyfriend goes his separate way for a spell. Mary’s past is a bit checkered and extremely traumatic, with an abusive father and little brother lost to a horrific accident, but these upheavals are no match for what she’s about to endure at the pious mitts of the local anchorites. The nunnery is populated by other mothers-in-waiting, and they’re kept in the straightest of lines, mainly due to being in constant fear of violent repercussion if found breaking the rules. At the head of the altar here is the icily vicious Mother Superior (Hennesy), a villain so unbelievably cold and apathetic that she’d probably have nefarious namesakes such as Nurse Ratched and Hannibal Lecter wet their pants in fear of her.
Bousman likes to hike up the brutality quotient, and while it’s not on the level of Saw-typed barbarism, it’s still pretty freakin’ uneasy to sit through. One example is a shortening of one’s tongue via scissors, and in one scene a young lady who didn’t successfully finish her lunch the first time is forced to devour it again – GULP. The only thing that is more invigorating than the story and the backdrop is the powerful female cast itself, with Kern and Hennesy taking the reins, followed up by strong portrayals from Courtney Halverson and Hannah Fierman. The movie itself is rather easy to piece together, and the usage of multiple flashbacks assists in the traversing of the plot.
More than just an handful of white-knuckled moments catapult St. Agatha into one of the more intriguing movies in this early calendar year of 2019, and I can definitely recommend this one for some holy viewing. Just please keep your voices down because it seems like there’s a nasty nun around every damned corner.