Review by Sean Boelman
Cult filmmaker Mickey Reece has a particular style that cinephiles will either love or hate, but it depends on the project as to how well it works. The exorcism drama Agnes is particularly fitting for his sensibilities, and while it is far from perfect, it’s a really solid entry in a genre that is too often filled with terrible schlock.
The film follows a young priest and a reserved nun who experience a crisis of faith after there is an instance of demonic possession within the convent. Reece does a great job of taking these classic tropes and doing something unique with them that feels unique but will still appease genre fans.
It’s almost as if there are two separate movies in one here, as the first half is a supernatural horror flick and the final act turns into something more nuanced. That isn’t to say that the earlier part is any less distinctive — the entire film clearly carries the mark of being Reece’s work — but that final third is absolutely mind-blowing.
Religious themes are nothing new in the horror genre, as a lot of horror is based around faith and superstition. That said, Reece takes the ideas that are commonly explored within the exorcism subgenre on a surface level and adds an extra level of existential dread to the equation to make it hit even harder.
However, even though the movie does a good job of addressing the religious qualms that the characters are experiencing internally, there could have been much more development to the characters as a whole. The film switches protagonists a few too many times, causing the connection to be lost at times.
Molly C. Quinn gives a very nuanced performance, especially in the more emotionally-demanding latter portion of the movie. The supporting cast also has some strong performances. Sean Gunn and Ben Halla are the highlights, both giving performances that are tremendously fun to watch.
A lot of what makes Reece’s style so distinctive is that it has a very low-budget feel to it, but still feels very inspired. There is clearly a lot of influence from the classic exorcism movies, but there’s a lot of quirkiness to it. Part of the unsettling nature of the film comes from the tongue-in-cheek humor of Reece.
Agnes is probably going to be one of the most divisive movies to come out of this year’s Tribeca, but those who are fans of it will be very supportive. In terms of midnight festival flicks, this fits the bill to a tee.
Agnes is currently seeking distribution.