Tribeca Festival 2021 – Film Review – Agnes (2021) World Premiere

A cynical priest with an unsavory past and his timid neophyte are dispatched to a traditionalist convent. Their unwanted mission is to investigate the possible possession of a kindly nun called Agnes.

It soon becomes clear they have bitten off more than they can chew when the priest’s nose is bitten off and chewed.

Desperate to avoid ecclesiastical exile, they call in charismatic demon tamer Paul Satchimo, a man who honed his craft interacting with his sister’s evil spirit since childhood. What follows will change the lives of those caught in the unholy backdraft and challenge your judgment of what constitutes an exorcism movie.

Maverick indie director Mickey Reese unleashes his trademark style of quirky characterisations to see if he can freshen the glasses at the crowded possession party. For the most part, his endeavors transcend monetary restrictions and Bedknobs and Broomsticks flying cups to create a structurally bold and thematically eccentric genre flick. Including an audacious switcheroo of narrative perspective and dramatic tone that makes From Dust Till Dawn look uniform.

As an artist, Reese is far more preoccupied with the intricacies of the human condition than delivering a pigeon-hole-ready product. His disgraced cleric, nieve sidekick, and ethically befuddled female lead are the stuff of distilled cliché, however, the directions in which he bottlenecks them are anything but.

Reese also exhibits an obsession with aesthetics that naturally channels his limited resources towards a visual panache that elevates this work above emblematic posturing. The performances are low-key, yet relatively immersive, with the emphasis on storytelling rather than melodramatic showboating. The viewer is coaxed gently into cohabiting intimate pockets of theological paradox, rather than smashed into submission by the paranormal frying pan of the genre mainstream. The hazy horizon where Soderbergh meets The Conjuring if you like.

The film’s resolute desire to veer away from stuffy expectations and float casual curveballs of misdirection instead is what forges its fractured identity.

Those who go in anticipating slam-bam possess me mam pyrotechnics will be utterly underwhelmed, not least by one of the most ethereally abrupt endings in recent memory. However, those looking for a more subtle rendering of the devil’s dealings will soak up its rebellious nature and cool cinematic contrariness.

★★★★

Character Drama, Theological Horror  | USA, 2021 | Cert: TBC | 93 min | Tribeca Film Festival | 12th June 2021 | Dir. Mickey Reece| With. Molly Quinn, Jake Horowitz, Sean Gunn, Chris Browning, Ben Hall, Mary Buss, Chris Sullivan