Fantastic Fest Review: Mickey Reece’s ‘Agnes’
Upon reading the description for Mickey Reece’s latest feature Agnes one is led to believe this is a straightforward exorcism film taking place inside a religious convent. It’s precisely that for the first half which is executed quite effectively, bolstering some solid performances that are empowered by the well paced tension and frightening use of practical effects. The setup for the narrative is delivered via a rapid-fire opening where the viewer is introduced to Sister Agnes, who’s evidently been possessed by some sort of demonic entity judging by the slurs her now raspy voice flings across the dinner table at the other nuns and cemented by the fact that the room is being turned upside down around them as she shouts.
The head nun quickly calls for help from a higher authority within the church, where they’re provided with the skeptical Father Donaghue and his understudy Benjamin. Donaghue doesn’t believe in exorcisms or being possessed by demons, he thinks that possessions are merely inside people’s heads and they simply need to be tricked into thinking they’re exorcised for the problem to go away. So, much like Cotton Marcus in Daniel Stamm’s terrifying found footage film The Last Exorcism, he’s shocked when his performance doesn’t rid the “demon” from the young woman’s body. He calls in a seemingly sensationalist, blatantly unconventional exorcist by the name of Father Black and things seem to be really ramping up upon his arrival.
It’s around this midpoint in the ninety-three minute runtime that the narrative takes a massive and rapid departure from everything it’s established over the first half before proceeding to become almost another film entirely. Throughout the horror-centric first half the viewer is introduced to a devout fellow nun and close friend of Agnes named Mary (Molly C. Quinn, Doctor Sleep), who has had quite enough of these sinister events and departs the convent during the exorcism of her former friend. For the rest of the runtime the story follows Mary at her current low-paying day job as she struggles to make ends meet and build a new life for herself outside the convent. The drama is fairly effective but the abrupt, poorly connected transition creates an inconsistent tone that remains present throughout this portion, with too little runtime left for it to ever allow the viewer to fully invest in what’s happening. It seems to have it’s fans so it’s a film that’s worth a look, especially if you enjoyed Reece’s other work such as Arrows of Outrageous Fortune or Climate of the Hunter, and you can decide for yourself when Agnes hits VOD on December 10 courtesy of Magnet Releasing.