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Saint Drogo
Monster Makeup Productions

Movie Reviews

‘Saint Drogo’ review: Bleak folk horror makes for an impressive sophomore feature

“Dissent is a ripple that swells into a wave”

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the work being covered here wouldn’t exist.

Saint Drogo follows a couple down to the little tourist town (and queer summer haven) of Provincetown, Massachusetts, where one half of the couple hopes to bring some romance back to their partnership. The other half of the couple, Caleb, has another motive for wanting to take this trip, though. What Caleb ends up finding out about himself and his partner Adrian is chilling, and what begins as an undercurrent of sadness becomes pure terror.

When Caleb starts having mysterious dreams about his ex-boyfriend Isaac, it begins to impact his current already-strained relationship with Adrian. The last thing Caleb knew about Isaac was that he was spending the summer working in Provincetown, in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The next step is for Caleb to stalk Isaac’s Facebook, where he sees a post saying that Isaac has decided to stay in Provincetown through the off-season.

If you’re not familiar with Provincetown, or if you’ve never been to a coastal tourist town in the off-season, to describe a town like that as “sleepy” is an understatement. Provincetown — and Cape Cod in general — can be a downright bummer in the winter. “A drinking town with a fishing problem” kind of place. I’ve always described Cape Cod in the winter as bleak. Quiet, cold, windy, and gray.

An empty beach can be a beautiful thing (and there are many gorgeous shots of the landscapes in Saint Drogo), but it also lends itself to loneliness and isolation. It can be just as inspiring as it can be desolate. Most people wouldn’t choose to visit Provincetown in the winter, and Adrian (Michael J. Ahern) quickly realizes that the couple’s trip to Provincetown was actually not about rekindling their relationship, but that they’re actually there to try to find Isaac.

(Full disclosure: I grew up on Cape Cod and now reside in the same city as the crew behind Saint Drogo (Providence, RI). It absolutely adds a layer of fun to me to watch this sort of super-local film, where I recognize where each scene was filmed. One of my favorite Providence drag queens (Complete Destruction) makes a brief appearance in the second half of the film, and some local beer is featured, too. There are also a few fun Easter eggs that nod to Death Drop Gorgeous, the first film from the team behind Saint Drogo.)

The sophomore feature from Monster Makeup Productions works at a much faster pace than Death Drop Gorgeous, and tells a completely different kind of story. While Saint Drogo could be described as a “slow-burn”, like much folk horror is, it will keep your attention from start to finish. Death Drop Gorgeous was a critique of hookup culture, the toxic masculine gay “scene” and the transactional nature of so many relationships – it was also just a super fun slasher. Saint Drogo is a darker and deeper criticism of more problems within the gay scene, mainly substance abuse, but also how a queer haven and a place that has historically been safe for LGBTQ+ people to unapologetically be themselves, is changing over time to benefit the wealthy. 

There’s a sense that Caleb (Brandon Perras) is beginning to unravel before the couple reaches their vacation destination. He’s growing tired of Adrian’s friends, his job, Adrian’s job, and everything that seems to be expected of him. Alcohol serves as social lubricant for Caleb to tolerate those around him when he’d rather be alone, but also as commentary (Why do we need this? Why do our social lives revolve around drinking?). Both Caleb and Adrian go out drinking with friends, and both halves of the couple use drinking to hide their truths – that they are beginning to pull away from each other.

When Caleb and Adrian arrive in P-town and begin their search for Isaac, they quickly meet a local named Eric (Matthew Pidge). While he at first seems friendly and benevolent, when he invites Caleb and Adrian out, they all end up at Eric’s home. Not only is he interested in sleeping with the couple, but also in getting them to do drugs with him. He’s insistent. 

Saint Drogo

Monster Makeup Productions

Remember how I said that there isn’t that much to do in a tourist town in the winter besides drinking? Drug use goes right along with that. And for some, drug use goes hand-in-hand with being a part of the gay community (I read the film’s fictional drug, Anaphora, as a stand-in for methamphetamines) and Saint Drogo follows this theme of what happens when you decide to break the mold. If everyone around you is using and drinking, stopping can mean being ostracized. Saint Drogo explores the isolation that can be so painful when one decides to set themselves apart from their community’s expectations of them. 

Saint Drogo’s exploration of themes feels mature, quiet, and clear. The film has a tight runtime of just 78 minutes, which tells the tale with impressive editing and not a single shot that feels too long. Sex scenes are underscored by creepy, haunting music. The costume design (particularly in the dream/hallucination sequences) is wonderful, and the practical effects are great. The Monster Makeup team once again managed to pull off a lot with a small budget, which is mostly only reflected in some of the gorier scenes. While the practical effects are good, they toe the line between believable  and ridiculousness, which doesn’t always match the tone of the film. 

While Saint Drogo may have pulled inspiration from New England folk horror films like The VVitch, Saint Drogo is original and fresh. Multiple themes and interpretations can be pulled from the film, from Caleb and Adrian’s relationship, and the film’s ending, which lends the film easily to rewatches and becoming a queer cult classic. 

Saint Drogo will be screening virtually at Popcorn Frights Festival on 8/12/2023 and at CinemaQ Film Festival in Denver on 8/11/23.

Saint Drogo
‘Saint Drogo’ review: Bleak folk horror makes for an impressive sophomore feature
Saint Drogo
The sophomore feature from the minds behind 2020’s ‘Death Drop Gorgeous’ is a bleak folk-horror film set in the queer summer vacation Mecca of Provincetown, Massachusetts, during the off-season. What begins as an undercurrent of sadness leads to pure terror.
Reader Rating0 Votes
0
Great performances from the three leads (Perras, Ahern, and Pidge)
The location is used perfectly to tell this tale
Unapologetically gay (not a straight in sight!)
Creepy score and soundtrack
Some of the gore detracts from Saint Drogo’s more serious nature.
9
Great

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