Agony (2020) – Film Review
Director: Michele Civetta
Cast: Asia Argento, Franco Nero, Rade Serbedzija
By @Roger Crow
The problem with most horror films is they set their stall out too early. Agony is no exception. Instead of easing the viewer in with a series of domestic, everyday occurrences, Asia Argento’s character has what looks like a premonition of the opening titles and assorted spooky goings on.
She’s a discontented New Yorker who travels to Tuscany to take care of her estranged mother’s will. She must also decipher visions of her forgotten childhood and confront a spectral ‘Lady in Red’, whose dark secret will unlock her terrifying destiny.
The problem is we’ve seen this all done before. And as watchable as Asia is, everything is a bit pedestrian. Feel free to play Creepy Euro Movie bingo as things progress. Haunted heroine? Check. Creepy house? Check. Unnerving doll. Check. Shady characters in masks (like Rade Serbedzija’s earlier offering Eyes Wide Shut)? Check. Spooky dimly lit corridors? Check.
With no levity, horror movies just become a series of build ups to the next jump scare. Well, some of them do.
This one does feature good cinematography, and those Italian locations are very easy on the eye. And while the creepy old character at the heart of the drama is bone-chilling, the sudden use of filters makes the movie look like it was shot by a bored teenager looking for their next Insta filter.
“Fails to amaze”
Not since the nails-down-a-blackboard smash of Chris De Burgh’s hit has a Lady in Red been so annoying. And then there’s a local hunter so deranged, he thinks it’s perfectly fine to grin at Argento with a bloody knife and urge her to look at the creature he killed for dinner. Like said slaughtered animal, this is also a bore. Boar? No? Fair enough. Not a great gag, but still better than most of the lines in this offering.
Things finally pick up in the third act, but by then it’s too little, too late.
It’s not a bad looking film, and if you’ve never seen seen a thriller set in Italy then it may appeal. But so many of us have been here before with far superior offerings like Don’t Look Now, The Others, The Wicker Man and The Shining. Yes, like Kubrick’s classic, this also features a maze, but fails to amaze.
I wanted to like it more than I did, and no doubt in the hands of a director like Peter Strickland, who injects dry humour into his movies, the film would have been more effective.
However, sad to say the film is summed up by its title.