This week I’ll be reviewing St. Agatha, a horror movie I watched on Netflix for the first time a few months ago, and about a week ago for purposes of writing an accurate view. While I really liked it on the initial viewing, my second viewing had me more frustrated than anything else. After a long conversation with myself, I’ve decided that this movie lands in the three-star category: Entertaining for the wrong reasons.
While I didn’t find myself rooting for the bad guy or anything, I found myself riveted more because I was trying to piece together the relevance of sub-plots that, spoiler alert, never came together. But I’ll get into that a little later. the Netflix description is, “Unwed and pregnant, a young woman flees her abusive home in 1950s Georgia and takes refuge at a mysterious convent with a terrible secret.”
The movie starts with Mary showing up at what looks like a church that’s falling apart. She gets a tour around what is apparently a convent, and told that she’s free to leave whenever she wants, but while she’s there, she has to adjust to their schedule. None of this seems too out of the ordinary, until we meet “Mother.” Mother is super concerned about the well-being of the baby. While this sounds like it should seem somehow nurturing or something, it (probably intentionally) comes off as absolutely creepy, in a way that was more ‘I am uncomfortable witnessing this with my eyes’ way rather than a chilling horror way.
Early in Mary’s stay at the convent, red flags keep popping up, screaming that this is not the place it was sold as, and that something is very wrong. She keeps hearing things moving in the crumbling ceilings and walls, and it gets written off as being rats since the building is old/in disrepair. When she sees a very human eye looking at her through one of these holes, she knows something more sinister is going on, and instead of making a fuss about leaving, she instead begins to investigate, to try and figure out the secret things that are going on. While I understand human nature is to be curious and try and solve mysteries, especially when things don’t make sense, I can’t imagine why Mary – a woman who came to the convent in the best interests of her baby – would so willingly put herself in danger just to try and know all the secrets of this obviously terrible place.
A lot of the ‘horror’ elements in this are really just unsettling things that the women at the convent are forced to do. One woman becomes sick at dinner when the nuns refuse to excuse her, and when she throws up onto her plate, she is forced to “finish her dinner” before she can leave, while the other women watched. At one point one woman is made to cut out her tongue, and for almost no discernible reason, Mary has her ankles crushed by some metal clamps. She’s also locked inside a coffin and renamed Agatha at one point because Mother feels that Mary is too holy a name for her.
I saw a lot of the ‘big twist’ in this movie coming a mile away. All the women at the convent who aren’t nuns are pregnant, the convent needed money…to me, it was all too obvious what was really going on, which sort of created a movie that took me on a trip through the inevitable, with few twists or turns.
A small spoiler warning for what’s ahead, but there’s something in this movie that was left, to me, wholly unresolved, and it honestly was a huge pain point of the movie with me.
Early in the movie, Mother brings up the fact that Mary is (or feels) responsible for the death of her little brother. She goes on to point out that Mary mentions that “she thinks she sees him sometimes.” Nothing is ever done with this information or subplot, since we get flashbacks to show Mary’s past leading up to this. Now, I suppose it could have just been another method of torture for Mary, or another way to show that Mary/Agatha is an unfit mother, but really, I wanted more with this plotline. With the amount it was mentioned, I felt like it was an interesting piece of information that no one did anything with. There could have been a ghost subplot, or they could have at least confirmed or denied whether Mary had hallucinations of her brother or not. It felt incomplete, a loose end that was never really tied up.
At the end of the movie, Mary is able to escape the convent, but the dealings around that are dubious at best, and almost felt like a rush for the finish line after so much buildup. Everything just felt lackluster, and there wasn’t much of anything that made this movie stand out as a great watch. I was left with more questions than answers. Sure, Mary got away, but we don’t know anything after that. She’s malnourished, likely disabled for life (even though she can run on crushed ankles for some reason) and she escapes with her baby. I feel like this movie is a lot of buildup with no real reward for sitting through it. We get the sort of run-of-the-mill “happy?” ending, which doesn’t leave us feeling satisfied or wanting more. Now, I love horror that is open-ended, leaving the viewer/reader/etc to decide what happens, but I felt like this was that, but to an extent I didn’t actually love.
If you’ve got any other movies in your Netflix queue, I’d tell you to give them a try before you put this one on. If you want a little bit of creep laced with a lot of “WTF?” moments, then you might be in the better mindset to watch this than I was.
Have you seen this movie? What did you think? Did you love it, hate it? Do you agree with me? Did I miss something glaringly obvious that changes the entire point of the movie? Let me know!