How do you review a movie so peculiar and insane that it makes Mandy look straightforward by comparison? The film’s own trailer opens with the admission that there is a fine line between creativity and madness. However, well before downtown LA is under attack from Thanksgiving turkey paratroopers, any evidence of the line’s existence is long gone from the rear view mirror. That’s when it dawns on me: reviewing Saint Bernard is impossible. And yet …
Gabriel Bartalos (Skinned Deep) weaves a white tuxedo-wearing protagonist down a rabbit-hole of increasing madness that feels a bit like if Terry Gilliam directed a Tommy Wiseau adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. Bartalos pushes the audience through a gauntlet of increasing absurdity, complete with non-sequitur formal wear football and extremely awkward fucking.
While there may be deeper symbolism hidden amongst the apparent psychosis, we must accept the equally plausible possibility that Bartalos uses his vivid imagination as a showcase for his amazing makeup and prosthetic talents. While Saint Bernard is only his second directing credit, Bartalos’s makeup and special effects credits include a myriad of horror classics including several entries in the Leprechaun franchise, Fright Night Part 2, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Frankenhooker, and Brain Damage, to name just a few of more than 30 films that showcase his talents.
And there are practical effects aplenty on display in Saint Bernard. Gnarly prosthetics, unsettlingly realistic props, and brutal dismemberments adorn the screen. The gore and special effects on display demonstrate everything you’d expect from someone with this resume. While some viewers may need more story, the effects take center stage in Bartolos’s magnum opus.
His connection to the Leprechaun series likely explains the biggest cameo in the movie: Warwick Davis. Granted, some may be disappointed in Davis’s limited role. However, Jason Dugre carries the film from start to finish as the titular Bernard. Meanwhile, a bizarre, sinister turn from the late LGBT icon “Flawless Sabrina,” credited as Jack Doroshow, bookends the film as the mysterious “Uncle Ed,” demanding just as much attention as the practical effects.
Ultimately, viewers (and likely critics) will have a difficult time pinning Saint Bernard down. It’s a cop out to simply write it off as meaningless nonsense, but there may not be a strong enough story thread to call it brilliant either. Frankly, there’s enough bizarre shock value to send the most cynically pretentious cinephiles running for the hills. For die-hard effects fanatics, and fans of films like Kuso, it’s absolutely mandatory viewing.
Saint Bernard will be released May 14, 2019 from Severin Films.
‘Saint Bernard’ Is A Surreal Epic That Spirals Into Insanity [Review]