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SALEM HORROR FEST ’23 MOVIE REVIEW: FOLK HORROR AND QUEER INCLUSIVITY COLLIDE IN “SAINT DROGO”

Wednesday, May 10, 2023 | Uncategorized

By CASS CLARKE

Starring Michael J. Ahern, Brandon Perras and Matthew Pidge
Written by Michael J. Ahern and Brandon Perras
Directed by Michael J. Ahern
Monster Makeup

When They/Them debuted, it faced a lot of blowback due to its thin depiction of queer inclusivity, with various identities in our vast community portrayed as caricatures. Similar issues plagued Bros, as, in the end, it’s still a film centered around two cishet white gay males. Yes, it takes some progressive steps forward, but it doesn’t contend with its limited viewpoint – except through jokes about the impossibility of pleasing every queer person in the film. Queer humans don’t share the same experiences just because we’re queer. Mainstream queer films like these attempt to speak for all and silence the more complicated questions around privilege and gatekeeping. Modern mainstream films shy away from tackling the prickly issues in our community, like internalized misogyny, transphobia, access to gender-affirming care, classism, gender dysphoria, and racism. There are so many facets of ourselves to explore and biases to interrogate. Yet, it’s as if some filmmakers are so scared of making a mistake in this approach that they’d rather not rock any boats – even if they could learn from dredging these waters.

SAINT DROGO refreshingly dives into the isolating, dreadful, and foreboding feelings around queer homogeneity. Centered on Caleb (Brandon Perras) and his boyfriend, Adrian (Michael J. Ahern), SAINT DROGO explores the necessity of dissent in queer communities. What starts with a weekend getaway for the on-the-rocks couple transforms into a larger statement about the city of Provincetown, Massachusetts,  and the kind of white gay men who don’t want progress. On the surface, it’s a folk horror mystery set beachside. Unlike Adrian, Caleb doesn’t trust this locale. He wants to ask questions about why the town is the way it is (gossipy and secretive) and push the locals into explaining themselves. He soon becomes a harbinger, carrying the film’s intrigue on his back. At times, Perras’ earnestness crosses into stilted and fumbling territory, but when things ramp up in the final act, it’s hard not to feel every squishy emotion he embodies on screen.

Aesthetically, Ahern displays this thesis gorgeously, carefully panning the camera across a sea of faces that are almost identical – down to their beards. There’s a rhythmic repetition of events (drugs, sex, sleep, wandering along shorelines) that almost lulls the viewer into unrest. Fittingly, the final act more than makes up for its overly cautious slow-burn approach. Shots of waves washing away the sand and any remnants of what was built double down on this literal manifestation of white-washing a community. Due to this angle, it makes sense that the cast of this film is primarily white, as it directly contends with this facet of the town.

However, the standout is this film’s monster. Joe Castro and the Monster Makeup team have crafted something unique and intriguing enough to warrant a feature based on its mythos, too. While that’s not what this film focuses on, it nevertheless brings a creepy cult element to land the film’s message: Make ripples. Stay clear of those who won’t embrace change in our community. Progress isn’t the threat. Queer uniformity is.

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