Poor Agnes Film Review by Zobo With A Shotgun
Horror has always been dominated by male serial killers; portraying them as inferior, stronger and more fucked up than women ever will be. But why is that always the case? Over the last decade or so, we’ve seen a gradual shift to women that kill with the likes of American Mary and High Tension, but many of the badass women presented to us in horror are circumstantial killers. They kill because they have to, not because they really want to. That’s where independent horror film Poor Agnes, comes in and changes the tables to push the idea that women can be just as powerful, intimidating and evil as a man can.
Agnes lives alone in a remote countryside location, strolling the bars and streets for easily seduced men that will fall prey to her within a flutter of eyelashes. With a decapitated trophy preserved in her freezer in the basement, it’s clear from the outset that Agnes has a thirst for depravity that doesn’t need an explanation of source or reason. When a reporter shows up at her doorstep asking questions about the disappearance of an ex-boyfriend, Agnes realises she needs to be on her toes in order to assure this man doesn’t suspect anything about her previous relationship. After discovering that Mike is not a reporter, and is, in fact, a private investigator, Agnes must use herself as a weapon to get him to succumb to her charismatic way before entrapping him in the basement, where his new life is about to begin.
Let’s talk about Lora Burke who plays Agnes. From the outset, it’s prominent that Burke rewired her mindset completely to encompass everything that is expected of a ruthless and manipulative character, that truly believes they are a creature superior to anything else that thrives. With a God complex riding on a halo above her twisted and perplexing mind, Agnes slowly tortures Mike with nothing but her words, which cut through him deeper than any blade ever would. Although Poor Agnes is a serial killer movie at the core, the themes of abuse run much deeper than pure physical torment, taking this film from what could be a throwaway slash and dash movie to something far more harrowing and psychological – a film that slithers under the viewers skin, crawls through the matter of their spine and nestled safely in the comfort of their horrified mind. Burke’s portrayal of Agnes is one of the most compelling performances throughout the history of horror, and as an actress she will one day sit comfortably along the likes of Kathy Bates, Sigourney Weaver and Beatrice Dalle, as one of the most iconic women in horror.
When watching Poor Agnes, it was hard to find fault with almost anything in this film. A discussion with another fan of the film recently happened on Twitter where we discussed the lighting used throughout the film, and how with the use of a single bulb, an ominous and disconcerting atmosphere was achieved throughout the basement scenes which are the beginning of where the mentally torturing relationship between Agnes and Mike begins to develop. Director Navin Ramaswaran, has effectively taken the subject of abusive relationships and turned this on its head to show that anyone can be the victim of such a monstrous situation. Mike succumbs to Agnes’ manipulative ways, and seems to suffer from something similar to Stockholm syndrome when he has every opportunity to escape the twisted clutches of his captor yet stays chained to her side like the loyal dog she has trained him to become. The film presents the audience with a frustrating situation as it seems so certain that Mike will come to his senses and overcome the vicious cerebral chokehold that’s on him, yet Agnes twiddles his weaknesses around her fingers, keeping him firmly in place. It’s this representation of a very truthful reality of abuse that is the real horror shown here, more horrifying and human than the decapitated head that’s stored in the freezer.
For a serial killer film, there isn’t much gore or blood, which is an interesting take on the serial killer genre as the focus is generally on the depraved acts that are carried out and how that is the worst part for any victim. Poor Agnes runs down a different route, which is closer to the likes of the Netflix show Mindhunter, which goes deeper than how many toes are cut off and looks at the psychological aspects of a person with intent to kill, and pleasure from said debauchery. After watching this film, you will be left feeling a little unsure about the people around you, with an air of distrust that even the sweetest looking human, can have a dark and sinful obsession with sex, murder and mental torture.
If you are looking for what could potentially be one the most psychologically disturbing indie horror films of the year, then look no further than Poor Agnes. It rivals against the likes of The Silence of the Lambs and Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and will have a worthy place amongst your collection with everything else that screams psycho killers.