Soho Horror: Saint Drogo (2023)

Director: Michael J. Ahern, Brandon Perras-Sanchez, Ryan Miller

Running Time: 78 Minutes

Starring: Brandon Perras-Sanchez, Michael J. Ahern, Payton St. James, Matthew Pidge, Tradd Sanderson

After the release of 2020's festival-favourite work Death Drop Gorgeous, the team behind that cult film follow their gleefully fun slasher with an intriguing piece of folk horror. It opens on a beach where an unknown person digs through seaweed in a frantic search for something, although the arrival of a mysterious figure in a white robe ensures things take a gruesome turn.

This is all a dream being had by Caleb (Brandon Perras-Sanchez), an artist whose worries are growing over his missing ex, Isaac. Taking an impromptu trip to Provincetown in the hopes of rekindling his relationship with Adrian (Michael J. Ahern), Caleb is also aware that they are visiting his ex's last known location. As he grows closer to discovering what happened to Isaac, the rabbit hole takes him further into the hidden horrors lurking beneath the town.

In-between taking writing and directing duties, co-stars Perras-Sanchez and Ahern effectively capture this couple who are drifting apart. Tensions are evident between the disconnected pair, as disagreements over rent and work have put strains upon them. The issues are effectively shown from both sides, with Isaac's friends being surprised at the couple still being together while Adrian's co-worker reminds him that he is entitled to do what he wishes.

While the trip is a way for the couple to reconnect, it also becomes an escape for Adrian from the job he is unhappy with. As Caleb's investigation threatens to uncover the darker side to their holiday destination, Adrian would rather remain within the free-spirited feeling than return to the dissatisfaction that he has felt with life. As the situation leaves Caleb reflecting on his past relationship, he is also left questioning his current one.

Aided by cinematographer Kevin Bowden and co-director/editor Ryan Miller, Ahern and Perras-Sanchez effectively convey a sense of mood and tone within this town. While the off-season makes the location feel so quiet, adding to the eerie feeling is a lingering spectre of an unwelcome force looming over. Despite being told to give up the search, Caleb's determination leads him to uncover the lurking nightmares which offer danger.

Making itself apparent is a gentrification metaphor which is delivered in an unsubtle way, feeling appropriate with how some performances can feel over-the-top. While these elements stick out within the feature, what works better is the gory effects that bring alive the horrors. It all makes up this sexually charged tale which includes substances ready to be snorted off many locations, and offers how silent compliance may seem like the only option when facing nightmares beyond comprehension. This feels like a queer Midsommar, as horrific actions are utilized as the catalyst for a much-needed break-up.

Saint Drogo made its International Premiere at Soho Horror Film Festival