The Hallucinatory Splendor of the Wonderfully Weird Saint Bernard

Few cinematic ventures aspire to a degree of lunacy so joyously achieved by the berserk Saint Bernard. It was conceived by groundbreaking makeup effects artist Gabe Bartalos, operating here at the height of his formidable talents. His extraordinary work is a phantasmagorical feast of hallucinatory splendor, a voyage into a disturbed mind on the brink of insanity. Bartalos’ intensely personal journey merges grindhouse-era grit with arthouse aspirations, needling the mind, while pummeling the senses.

We witness Bernard (Jason Dugre), a maestro plunged into deep depression, as he grapples with painful memories, and vivid nightmares, manifesting in the flesh. The film’s unique visual palette envisions a landscape where horrific characters lurk in outlandish settings, concealing restorative power beneath a frightening veneer. In order to resist the internalized monsters responsible for his despair, Bernard is forced to excavate deeply-rooted trauma. These encounters challenge Bernard to topple his protective barriers, and resurrect his zest for music.

Saint Bernard unspools on a tableau of the twisted anatomy, absurdist comedy, and the impossible creatures for which the versatile Bartalos is celebrated. The film is a showcase for the director’s dynamic range as a purveyor of bizarre imagery, where his surrealist sensibilities blend seamlessly with the film’s pitch black comedic narrative. Bartalos develops mise-en-scène through an amalgam of found objects, splatter gore, and exquisite sculpture work, a configuration of his many obsessions.

Saint Bernard is a singular work, gleefully embracing its what-the-fuckery, and ascending to profound heights of self-reflection. The story serves as moving allegory for artists who’ve faced similar crisis in devotion to their craft. In that regard, it functions as an engaging, and strangely therapeutic, foray into the realm of supremely weird and wonderful cinema.

Chris Hallock | Programmer, Boston Underground Film Festival


I started watching SAINT BERNARD from writer/producer/director/FX master Gabe Bartalos knowing very little to nothing about the movie. There were some local area screenings of SAINT BERNARD in advance of the Severin Films Blu-ray release, and I had read some responses to the movie that promised a strange and wild experience. But there’s nothing that can really prepare you for watching this film.

Morbidly Beautiful | Written by Patrick Krause

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Saint Bernard is 2019 surreal fantasy horror film about a classical musical conductor who unravels into the abyss of insanity.

Avant-garde cinema is nearly as old as movies themselves, having begun in Europe in the 1920’s where experimental filmmaking pushed against traditional styles, giving artists free reign to explore their imaginations without the constrictions of typical narrative methods.

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Monster Reviews: Saint Bernard 2013

Some films induce the spirit of horror. Whether it’s with style, gore, flash, story, special effects, or what have you, they convey the very essence of the word. They scrape at your nerves and hack at your sanity. Some films employ savage tactics to push you over the edge and chill you to the bone.

House of Tortured Souls | Donovan Smith

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Blu-ray Review: Gabe Bartalos’ SAINT BERNARD

I don’t know about you, but my dreams are achingly normal; no super spies with beautiful femme fatales nor thrilling cliff jumping permeate my slumber. One time I dreamt I was cleaning out my garage. I don’t have a garage. Luckily, longtime effects legend Gabriel Bartalos has enough dreams and nightmares for all of us to witness, which he does gleefully with his second directorial feature, Saint Bernard, distributed by Severin Films, the finest purveyors of what the f–k. And this is a hall of famer, which is saying a lot. 


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Down a Traumatic Rabbit Hole in SAINT BERNARD

Most serious horror fans will recognise the name Gabe Bartalos. He’s been responsible for many glorious genre creations over the past few decades. He started in the mid-to-late 1980s working as an assistant and crew member doing special makeup effects for films like CrawlspaceFriday the 13th Part VI: Jason LivesThe Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, and From Beyond. Frank Henenlotter would later gave him the opportunity to design and execute effects for Brain Damage in ’88, leading to a collaboration that would go on to last over 20 years, including Henenlotter’s Basket Case 2Frankenhooker, and his 2008 film Bad Biology.

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