09th Jul2021

‘Agony’ VOD Review

by Chris Thomas

Stars: Asia Argento, Franco Nero, Jonathan Caouette, Nick Daly, Ninetto Davoli, Giulia Di Quilio, Monica Guerritore, Rade Serbedzija | Written by Michele Civetta, Joseph Schuman | Directed by Michele Civetta

Sometimes I feel a little sorry for low budget horror film makers today. Dial it back 30 years, you could make an incompetent piece of cinema, but put in enough hokey bloodletting, regardless of how laughably unrealistic those sausage string guts were, and you might well have a money-spinning film on your hands. Even objectively poor films like Driller Killer managed to (very deliberately) whip up enough conservative anger to ensure that a poorly made, dull film became widely seen, and naturally far more successful as a result.

Today, blood is not nearly enough. Some of the films I see today with a 15 certificate would have faced heavy censure back in the Mary Whitehouse days of video nasties. A time when films would get cut or banned by people who never actually took the trouble to watch the films.

In 2021, even competently made films are dullened by the thousands of films that have gone before. To this end, lots of horror films have a gimmick. Possibly the most successful gimmick from the last 20 or so years has been the POV camera from The Blair Witch Project, but looking back on it, the legacy of the Blair Witch has been awful for the low budget horror genre since.

Back to Agony, which sees a wealthy upper-class wife and mother plagued by bad dreams. She gets a letter in the post; her mother has died! She gets one of those brilliant horror film inheritance clauses – you must do a load of stuff, or you do not get the massive inheritance. Does this ever happen in real life? Or is this just an over ripe horror convention, used for sending protagonists into spooky old, and unfamiliar manor houses. Effectively we have The Wicker Man meets Rosemary’s Baby, in Italy.

As our protagonist returns to the house she does not remember, she is welcomed by a hug by the housekeeper, she looks at photos of herself as a child. Before we know what we are doing, we are find out about the people who used to live there, when the Christians arrived, seeing ghostly apparitions of a woman and we’re suffering from spooky moments in the hedge maze. It is all familiar but certainly not unwelcome.

Our protagonist goes through a long period of getting increasingly paranoid, her husband keeps smiling and nodding. It is the classic trope of married woman, in a manor house, suffering from “brain fever” or any number of other womanly ailments. No doubt caused by too much mental excursion and not enough wearing a dress and looking pretty. Quite quickly she is pushing per husband and daughter away, swearing and smoking.

Honestly, I enjoyed Agony. Some of the camera work has real flair and the paranoia and secrets of the past are well done. I love a good horror mystery. The film is well lit, well directed and the music is particularly good and compliments the film well, without being intrusive.

What we have in Agony is a perfectly competent horror mystery thriller that does not outstay its welcome.

Agony is available digitally in the UK now, from Thunderbird Releasing


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