Poor Agnes (2017) [Fantasia International Film Festival 2017]

A psychopathic female serial killer bonds with her newest victim in an odd way.  This leads to her path changing and her life getting more complicated.

Written by James Gordon Ross and directed by Navin Ramaswaran, the film takes the premise of a female serial killer who uses her charms to attract victims in the few times shown and then she brutally kills them as demonstrated, kind of, in the film’s timeline.  A lot of assumptions are needed in this film as it is being watched as mostly only hints are given that she is a brutal psychopath while she does inflict pain and use violence as if it were nothing while toying with her victims emotions and psyche, her killings are fairly few.  The film soon goes from a potentially gruesome serial killer story to a fourth wall breaking attempt at sympathizing for her.  She is shown both torturing, mostly mentally, her victims with one of them getting attached to her in some odd shade of Stockholm syndrome.  The potential of this angle is mostly rushed into and wasted, something that if it were better explored and used would have set the story up for a better, more interesting resolution.  Instead, the film goes with odd choices that feel off and too much talking to the camera directly without making it fully into a film that breaks the 4th wall and uses that to its advantage.  Instead, the film feels like it cannot decide which way it wants to go and how it wants to proceed with its admittedly good ideas.

Playing the lead of Agnes in an interesting but not fascinating way is Lora Burke who has the potential to bring this character into a fully fleshed killer who could have much more impact, but the film gives the impression that her acting was held back and the writing and the story did not help in developing this potentially strong female killer character.  She had a lot of potential and it feels wasted by the time the film ends.  Playing her long suffering, mild Stockholm syndrome-afflicted victim is Robert Notman who does a decent job of playing his middle of the road victim who is neither particularly scared or particularly interested or even interesting.  The rest of the cast is also playing their parts on the bland side of things, like a safe zone of serial killer acting.

The film for its faults or blandness has a few strengths and the way it is shot is definitely one of them.  The cinematography by Bruce William Harper makes the most of the settings, showing the beautiful forest and nature around where the killer lives in ways that are somber at times and yet stunning with all the greenery present.  This helps the film enormously as it keeps the attention throughout.

Poor Agnes is a film that has a ton of potential, has a great concept with a remotely located female serial killer who is physically capable and not shy to go for it, but it wastes its potential early on by adding in the breaking of the 4th wall too late in the story to make it a fully-fledged part of its narrative yet too early to make it any kind of jarring effect.  The film has decent performance but nothing that feels like it needs to be highlighted.  The look of it is stunning, but that’s feels wasted on characters and a story that could have been much stronger.

Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 13th to August 2nd.