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Film Review

AGNES (2021) Review

Neil reviews Fantasia Festival 2021 entry AGNES calling Mickey Reece’s film a “wild ride through exorcism and loss.”

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Agnes

Agnes will have it’s international premiere as part of the Fantasia Film Festival 2021, tickets and more info available here.

Synopsis

A nun’s disturbing behavior sparks rumors of demonic possession at a remote convent. When a priest-in-waiting and his disillusioned mentor are sent to investigate, their methods backfire, leaving a wake of terror and trauma.

Review

Mickey Reece’s Agnes is a film which prides itself on exploring the unexpected. Reece has built a career on maximalist storytelling. His narratives consider the box, think outside of it and then shatter it entirely.

With Agnes Reece is taking on the possessed nun genre. Easily classifiable as its own horror sub-genre. In act one the film does little to prove its uniqueness. Setting up the scenario exactly as any possession film would. It lulls the audience in to a false sense of security before launching in to a wild ride through exorcism and loss.

The nuns at St. Theresa’s convent live under the iron fist of their Mother Superior (Mary Buss), a fierce traditionalist when it comes to her Catholicism. When Agnes (played by Hayley McFarland) begins to display all the hallmarks of possession Father Donaghue (Ben Hall) is called in to assist.

Donaghue arrives with his dashing, unordained acolyte Benjamin (Jake Horowitz) at his side and immediately Agnes (the film) begins to pivot. Despite being the model priest-in-waiting, Benjamin is a distraction both for the audience and the other nun’s. Mother Superior isn’t impressed but it opens up Agnes to a satirical, comedic edge.

Glimpses of Agnes‘ true intentions begin to shine through in act two. As the nuns trade casual barbs we being to see more and more of Mary (Molly C. Quinn). Her placement within the narrative exposes as deeper interest in faith which Reece exploits in act three. Possession movies are focus on the possessed, Agnes is much more interested in those closest to them.

Through Mary we explore a crisis of faith, one which ultimately leads her to Agnes’ pre-convent life. For instance, after leaving the convent Mary strikes up a relationship with Agnes’ former lover Paul (Sean Gunn). She also takes up a job working as a cashier for a boss who feels like sexual harassment comes naturally. But rather than subject Mary to these horrors Reece instead subjects her to the prospect of them. It may feel restrained to some. But the bigger picture of Agnes feels much more cohesive than individual moments.

Ultimately its horror aspects take a back seat to the human element. For instance, the ultimate fates of Agnes and Mary are left unresolved. But the more existential elements leave the audience feeling satisfied and with plenty to ponder.

Verdict

What sets itself up as a standard possession film forces its way to the front of the pack by pivoting to become something else entirely. A sardonic exploration of the loss of faith.


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