The priest, neophyte, and nun all keep you involved, not the exorcism.
It’s difficult for any movie to top the pure horrors and terrors of “The Exorcist,” and many have tried and failed. There have been some fresh tries like “The Conjuring,” and failed bombs like “The Nun” and even the threequel “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It,” and believe me “The Last Exorcism: Part II” had nothing on the original.
The latest attempt “Agnes” is an independent feature, written and directed by Mickey Reece and released by Magnet Releasing, is less passionate about the actual exorcism that takes place, and more interested in the nun, who had a close connection to the possessed. Some of the following actors are ones you may know from commercial films, and others you may not know. Either way, they’re entertaining with how they ease into the script and how they step outside their comfort zones. That’s the most riveting thing about the movie.
The exorcism, this time, involves the young nun Sister Agnes (Hayley McFarland, who, coincidentally, was in the first “Conjuring”) being possessed by the devil, and the parish enlists the help of the older priest Father Donaghue (Ben Hall) and the younger neophyte Benjamin (Jake Horowitz) to extract the demon out of her. The latter has yet to take his vow of chastity, while the former doesn’t believe in demons. When Agnes bites his nose during the exorcism, he starts to develop cynicism, and requires help from the hot shot Father Black (Chris Browning), but not even he could release the demon from her.
The convent is run by the strict Mother Superior (Mary Buss), who is judgmental about Donaghue’s methods, and the main nun of the movie is the skittish Sister Mary (Molly Quinn from “Castle” and “We’re The Millers”), who lost the most important person in her life, which led her to taking the sacred vows. She leaves the nunnery, now works at a local grocery store with a tough and sexist boss named Curly (Chris Sullivan), and comes across a comedian (Sean Gunn), who knew Agnes. But did she leave the demon behind?
“Agnes” doesn’t work with the exorcism scenes, because they lack the fears and terrors that William Friedkin distinguished in “The Exorcist.” In fact, they’re rather boring. Not even the dialogue is all that special.
But what really works about the movie is the different aspects presented by the old priest, his student, and the main nun. They’re all portrayed respectively well by Hall, Horowitz, and Quinn, and they all use their dialogue and emotions on a delicate state. For Father Donaghue and Benjamin, they all question about the balance of good and evil. And for Sister Mary, she feels insecure about her past and present, and begins to feel the evil coming inside her. And her scenes with Sullivan and Gunn are both provocative. They can do more than “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.”
There have been lackluster exorcism movies in recent memory, like the ones I’ve mentioned up top, and while I didn’t care for how Agnes is being possessed by the devil, I was interested in the three characters I praised, because they’re more interesting than they would be if “Agnes” was more commercial than an independent feature.
In Select Theaters This Friday