Harkening back to the golden era of Italian cinema, Agony features giallo starlet Asia Argento and the iconic Franco Nero. Billed as an homage to Italian giallo cinema and led by two notable actors to come out of the scene (Well Nero from Spaghetti Westerns, but you catch my drift), I was pretty excited to give this one a shot. As the modern homages to the genre tend to be hit or miss, how does Agony compare?
What is It About?
“A discontented New Yorker, travelling to Tuscany to take care of her estranged mother’s will, must decipher visions of her forgotten childhood and confront a spectral ‘Lady in Red’, whose dark secret will unlock her terrifying destiny.”
What Did I Like About It?
Comparisons to the giallo genre (used in marketing of the film) rests largely with the sound design and cinematography. Impeccable in its presentation, the score gives a prevailing sense of dread and the camera flows seamlessly through the beautiful scenery of the estate where the film was shot. Overall, the aesthetic of the film oozes confidence and style, making for an engrossing experience.
Regardless of the personal controversies surrounding Asia Argento, her abilities as a performer are undeniable and Agony boasts one of her greatest. A passionate performance, with a wonderful descent into paranoia and self-disillusionment, Argento really elevates the project from mundane to memorable. Franco Nero, sadly, gives a rather forgettable showing and appears more as a guest on set than the icon fans love. However, his role is brief, serving only to give exposition to Argento’s character to the secrets of her family history; nevertheless, it was still great to see both of them acting opposite each other. Finally, Jonathan Caouett offers a significant performance as Michael: a dedicated father whose love for his wife pushes him through his own personal challenges.
In conclusion, Michele Civetta gives an impressive debut for his first feature length film as director/writer – definitely a talent to keep an eye on going forward as he further refines his vision.
What Did I not Like About It?
The films conclusion is really weak and rather nonsensical. This alone is the biggest deterrent to the production, as there is no real way to dress it up or justify its existence. Unfortunately, the hurts the productions identity and puts it onto the viewer to interpret it. Essentially, the structure feels geared towards a slow burn horror, but with an abysmal conclusion it fails in this regard. Alternatively, Agony when approached as a drama film with light horror elements it excels in its exploration of trauma visiting upon Argento’s character. Essentially, the production can be approached in different ways from a critical standpoint and the faults as a horror film should not negate its strengths as a drama/thriller.
The visuals and audio design are certainly praiseworthy. Contrarily, however, there is one choice that I found to be an ugly, a needlessly distracting use of constant colour saturation accompanying the appearance of the evil haunting Isidora. Ultimately, I feel the sequences would have been more impactful with this filter entirely removed.
Where Can I Find It?
Thunderbird Releasing is bringing Agony to the UK and digital platforms on the 14th of June.
It is difficult to fully embrace the film with such a rushed and awkward conclusion, and I think fans approaching this expecting heavy horror will be pretty disappointed. However, Asia gives a wonderful performance that captures madness and struggle with identity and the film is a visual feast backed by a great score. Say what you will about the final moments, Agony is a wonderfully crafted piece of gothic horror backed by one of Argento’s best performances.
If you are a fan of Asia Argento, or enjoy films thick with foreboding atmosphere, check out Agony when it comes to VOD on the 14th of June.
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