Religion, and the horror genre have been destined for audience attraction. The ideology of something with the best intentions of comfort, similarly to a child or pet, being threatened is something novel and film enthusiasts have loved for decades, even centuries. With the advent of accessibility for new filmmakers, so does the accessibility for more unique, and interesting stories, and those that delve into classical or religious themes is becoming more experimental and tonally dissonant from what viewers have seen before. In the case of Writer / Director Mickey Reece’s (Climate Of The Hunter, Strike, Dear Mistress, And Cure His Heart) Agnes, this level of experimentation is executed in, most ways, brilliantly to the point where it shakes reference to previous titles of the genre.
Following a recent possession at a convent for Nun’s, Agnes follows an investigation launched by the Church as it begins to uncover a darker side of the religious sisterhood. While many familiar with the religious / horror genre may look for similarities to that of The Exorcist (1973), this is not the film for that. There are few moments, for example, where an object may move and cause characters in the room to freeze, there is certainly a commendable enough of an effort to enforce that separation, giving the film its very own distinct identity. Filled with wild shots of foreboding imagery, and a looming soundtrack, you can tell that Mickey Reece had fun with the process of the film. Zooms, rotating, and dutch angles are beautifully shot throughout the entire 93-minute runtime, without the burden of feeling overwhelming as they add to the haunting nature of the film. There is a sense of mystery that propels the later-narrative of the film, and while some may find that to be a detriment, it certainly will play as a strength as the story progresses.
Agnes is also boasted by an incredibly impressive cast. Lead by Molly C. Quinn (Castle, We’re The Millers), whom also serves as one of the Producers on the film, provides a subtle performance that grounds Agnes in compromise of a much more exaggerated world that Reece had exploited. Hayley McFarland does a terrifying job as the possessed Agnes, and only minutes in are you already heavily-sympathized with her character and her connection to her sisterhood. Jake Horowitz, Sean Gunn, and Chris Browning also perform solidly, however, the best character is Father Donaghue, as portrayed by Ben Hall, who gives the film its tone almost from the start. Many of the characters are limited, but Father Donaghue is one of the most intriguing characters seen in any recent film of this one’s nature, as he easily provokes interesting thoughts, and even emotions, through his simple, yet cunning lines.
What will standout the most is the incredible cinematography, as Director Of Photography, Samuel Calvin (Climate Of The Hunter, Hellraiser: Judgment) surrounds Agnes with such beautiful shots, and incredible color-grading that the film truly shines. The execution of those shots in thirds will give eagle-eyed audience members satisfaction. In the pursuit of such a unique tone, Agnes may not be for everybody. There are moments of montage, and rapid sound change that will have some audiences turning away. By no means is this a bad thing, rather a style that may not sit the same for each viewer, and despite an incredible pace for the first half of the film, there is sudden drop that may clash with what had been previously shown. Agnes will go from a genre study, to a character study rather quickly.
Mickey Reece’s world, and character’s certainly come to hit in this film. From mesmerizing shots, an eery soundtrack, and distinct character’s, there is something incredibly charming about Agnes. It is remarkable how much this film manages to avoid relative sequences, and ultimately create its own voice. If given the patience, Agnes is a film that can push the template of the genre.
Agnes world premieres at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival June 12 at 8PM.
Score: 8 / 10.