There’s a line of ash staining the marble crown and head of the Virgin Mary. This is one of the fleeting yet ominous images in Mickey Reece’s Agnes, which is not a reworking of Agnes of God, another movie about nuns. Anyway that statue overlooks a convent housing the titular nun (Hayley MacFarland) who loses control of her own body thanks to a demon.
There’s also humour in this film, the source of that humor in the first act coming from Father Donoghue (Ben Hall), who comes to the convent to exorcise the demon out of the nun. The movie, for the most part, does its best as it decides to choose who its protagonist is. And Donoghue is on the running for that position.
Reece’s second candidate for his protagonist is Mary (Molly C. Quinn), Agnes’ best friend, and Agnes’ possession has its way of determining her faith. She’s barely in the movie during its first half though. Although at least it gives screen time to other cast members like Rachel True, who plays one of the nuns making quips as Donoghue’s supposed competence as an exorcist.
The priest, after a failed exorcism session, lays down and drinks from a flask. It’s nice, in theory, to see a horror comedy that uses its visuals to bring a clash of tones, but that doesn’t work here. Bryan Fuller and ugh, Ryan Murphy does camp horror better than this.
The father, then, disappears from Agnes, and it takes a weird turn into following Mary’s life as Agnes’ exorcism destroys her faith. I would have stayed because I assume that she doesn’t have to pay rent in the convent.
In the real world she does, where she takes a grocery job (been there, the pay’s not enough to live on your own) where she has to deal with a manager (This Is Us‘ Chris Sullivan) who says ominous things to her. Quinn is very good at scenes where all she must to is react to other people’s lines. Sadly, the movie wastes her talents.
Agnes then adds a romantic plot for Mary, which it’s too late to do this. And her romantic partner is a comedian (Sean Gunn) with an unnecessary backstory. The movie is as unpredictable as Mary as a character. She, by the way, ends up sandbagging her relationships with the comedian and Curly.
Is Mary becoming erratic because of the demon left Agnes and entered her? And in depicting this third act possession, is it trying to say something about evil? Maybe, but it fails at most of the things it’s trying to do. The puke coloured aesthetic doesn’t help.
Agnes opens in selected theatres and is also available on demand in several platforms.