Agnes, directed by Mickey Reece and written by Mickey Reece and John Selvidge, is an assortment of tones. It shifts from drama, comedy, and horror in a whirlwind. However, it ultimately leaves the movie lackluster. It entertains initially, but after a while, those shifts in tone and story may leave audiences bewildered. Viewers may not be prepared or pleased entering a horror film and realizing there is a lot less horror than typical possession movie fare.
Confusing Tones and Story
The opening of Agnes is memorable with an ethereal, a cappella style that contrasts the following moments of chaos. Yet, ultimately it feels out of place. There are a few unexpected tonal shifts that may confuse viewers about how to feel. Initially, it appears this is a straight possession story, as disgraced skeptic Father Donaghue (Ben Hall) heads to a pious and devout convent with soon-to-be-priest Benjamin (Jake Horowitz) to check out the demonic possession of Agnes (Hayley McFarland).
There is a bit of time given particularly to Father Donaghue’s beliefs. The lead-up to the exorcism and the music—could be lofi or chillhop—along with the slow-motion walk and edits here, made me cackle. But the humor is because it feels out of place. Same with the introduction of the celeb exorcist Father Black’s (Chris Browning) introduction, they call in for reinforcements. Over half of the film is devoted to this story before this chapter ends, and a new one unfolds.
The Focus Shifts Late
Around the halfway mark, the focus shifts to Agnes’s friend, fellow nun Mary (Molly C. Quinn). Mary became a nun to flee her traumatic past, only to find little respite there. And though Agnes is possessed, Mary still talks with her. When Mary is back in the world, she has to navigate the world and costs that were not a concern in the convent. Dealing with the world, she ran from leaves her struggling. The film is about Mary’s crisis of faith (I think). It explores reconciling the evils within and without with faith in God. While this is fine, it ends up not doing enough because of the lack of time and focus.
The acting overall fits whatever the film was attempting. However, because the film is either uncertain or purposely blending multiple tones, it distracts from the acting. The arthouse edits also feel like they don’t belong because the film’s vision is unclear and incredibly messy. Audiences may not need to be handheld, but they need a basic understanding of the tone of a movie as well as where it could conceivably head. As such, the film may leave viewers feeling confused.
Bright Moments Are Few & Far Between
Agnes doesn’t shine in the possession horror genre because it feels less like a movie and more like a jumbled rant. If you’ve ever ranted about your job, the moon, and social media or been on the receiving end, that’s the perplexity that exists here. The tones slingshot through and have no point beyond the film wanted to do it, so it did. The only emotion I had throughout was confusion about the significance of the film. The best scene is the hilarious slow-motion pre-exorcism walk. There are shining moments, but there is simply not enough.