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Agony review – Asia Argento stars in atmospheric horror where house is the star


It might be something of a surprise to see a new movie starring Asia Argento, a leading figure in the #MeToo movement; Agony, directed by Argento’s ex-husband Michele Civetta, was actually completed in 2017.

This atmospheric film hovers somewhere between a gothic horror and a giallo. Isidora (Argento) is a tightly wound Italian artist living in New York with her husband and young daughter. Plagued by strange visions of an occult ceremony, Isidora continues to unravel when she discovers that her mother, whom she believes is long dead, only passed away recently and has left her a vast estate in Tuscany. Isidora confronts her father, who confesses that he shielded her from the truth because of her mother’s debilitating mental illness. Isidora, along with her family, heads to the estate to oversee her mother’s funeral, and she is haunted by the image of a lady in red and begins to lose her grip on reality.

It’s the old, mysterious mansion that emerges as the real star. Baroque fading wallpapers, ornate painted ceiling, the winding corridors and halls; they all carry whispers of secrets and generate a palpable sense of unease. The first half of the film is an especially impressive mood piece, contrasting the foggy, unknowable landscape with Isidora’s worsening psyche. Stellar support performances from Monica Guerritore, who plays the forbidding housekeeper Angelica, and veteran actor Franco Nero further enhance the conspiratorial atmosphere.

Unfortunately, when Agony veers into the more explicitly horror territories, the garish colour effects cheapen the overall ambience. Poorly written dialogue also renders Isidora’s breakdown uninspired rather than moving. It’s a shame that, for all of its unnerving tonal registers, not to mention a gorgeous score, Agony winds up with a painfully predictable ending.

Agony is released on 14 June on digital platforms.



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