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Salem Horror Fest Review: ‘Saint Drogo’

Originally Published May 3. 2023 by RED BROADWELL |

Saint Drogo, the second feature from Monster Makeup LLC, is a queer horror classic in the making. Co-written and directed by Michael Ahern and Brandon Perras-Sanchez, the duo make the same magic they did with their debut feature Death Drop Gorgeous and seamlessly add a queer twist and timely commentary to a well-established subgenre. In lieu of a Giallo film by way of John Waters, this venture carries over the charm and stunning special effects from Death Drop Gorgeous while implementing stellar cinematography and hallmarks of classic supernatural and folk horror films. The team has cited Rosemary’s Baby and The Wicker Man as inspirations, with their focus on isolation and otherness playing a tremendous role in the film.

The story centers on Caleb (Perras-Sanchez) and Adrian (Michael Ahern), a couple drifting apart. Spurred by prophetic stress dreams, the couple travels to Provincetown in Cape Cod to locate their friend and Caleb’s ex, Issac (Tradd Sanderson). While stranded in the near-abandoned, off-season town, their rocky relationship is tested further. As Caleb becomes more entrenched in the mystery of Issac’s disappearance and Adrian slips into the arms of shady local Eric (Matthew Pidge), the secrets of Provincetown threaten to split the couple apart entirely.

Ahern, Perras-Sanchez, and Ryan Miller have stepped up their game following their first feature. Provincetown is beautifully framed by Kevin Bowden’s cinematography, with long shots of barren, snow-covered forests and the desolate town aiding in selling Caleb’s feelings of isolation. The soundtrack emphasizes eerie feelings with haunting choral vocals and low synth beats intent on making the audience uneasy. While the camerawork, editing, and atmosphere of the film are amazing progressions from Death Drop Gorgeous, one thing that’s maintained its quality is the practical effects. The gore is visceral. Ahern and Perras-Sanchez know their gore is good and actively choose to pull back on showing it after the cold open. This adds to the film’s suspense, making the blood and guts that much more horrifying when it makes an appearance.

The cast, largely returning from Death Drop Gorgeous, is as great as ever. No matter the genre, it’s obvious the cast and crew love the craft of filmmaking and have amazing chemistry. Saint Drogo is a huge tonal shift and shows the range of each of the actors. Ahern and Perras-Sanchez absolutely kill as the film’s leads. They authentically sell Caleb and Adrian’s long-term relationship and its status as one breeze away from collapse. Matthew Pidge and Peyton St. James are also wonderful in their roles. It’s exciting to see the actors return for campier performances.

Ahern and Perras-Sanchez excel at incorporating timely issues within the LGBTQ community into their films. Death Drop Gorgeous provided commentary on ageism, racism, and the perpetuation of “masc4masc.” Saint Drogo provides a commentary that permeates the entire community. The film’s primary themes are assimilation and isolation — perfect themes to implement into folk horror. This causes a rift in Adrian and Caleb’s relationship. Adrian is more focused on maintaining a certain reputation for himself, while Caleb is less palatable to others. This dichotomy only adds fuel to the fire when Issac goes missing, and only Caleb cares about what happened to him. This fuels Caleb’s growing paranoia and breakdowns the longer they’re in Provincetown.

Adrian, Eric, and the residents represent members of the community that are willing to sacrifice other members to gain favor with the cisgender heterosexual masses. In a time where the LGBTQ community should be more unified than ever, there are always a few willing to sacrifice the less palatable members to stay in the masses’ good graces. Caleb, an unapologetic punk who has heavily alluded to mental health issues, is exactly the kind of gay person that these people would want to disassociate from. It’s a theme that deeply resonated with me, and how Ahern and Perras-Sanchez handle the commentary is very well done.

Saint Drogo is a visual and auditory spectacle in every way. From the subtle camerawork to the jaw-dropping gore, there is always something spectacular to entertain. Ahern and Perras-Sanchez masterfully create an intriguing and suspenseful narrative. The film is a gorgeous and horrifying experience throughout. Ahern, Perras-Sanchez, and the team at Monster Makeup LLC are ushering in a new era of independent queer horror cinema.

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