Elements of ancestral horror mix with Italian atmospherics in this moody tale of terror.
Isidora (Asia Argento) has lived in New York since her childhood, receives a notice that her mother - who she believed was dead since she left Italy - has passed and she has inherited a sprawling country house. She flies out there with her husband, Michael (Jonathan Caouette), and daughter Jordan (Salerno Claudia) but discovers that it’s not only her estranged father who has been lying to her. The village, while friendly at first appear to be holding even more secrets. She’s even more disturbed by a ghostly woman in red that she sees around the estate.
Directed ably by Michele Civetta, who also co-wrote with Joseph Schuman, and manages to create a decent atmosphere in what is a fairly standard story. The big draw for the film is, of course, Asia Argento, who provides a somewhat stilted performance, and a ponytailed Franco Nero, who is as enigmatic as he’s ever been, even if he’s not given enough screen time.
The actors’ having to speak their parts in English adds a discordant element, but it’s something you get used to as the film progresses. When the movie relocates to Italy, there are subtitled moments from the locals to add some flavour and authenticity. Salerno Claudia fares worst, as she’s dubbed by another actor (Molly Jane McCarthy), but a patient viewer would be able to overlook this.
Agony doesn’t fall into the trap a lot of independent films do, managing to avoid relying on jump scares and building up a decent mood and a curious narrative that, in the tradition of Italian films, doesn’t make much sense but is enjoyable. The flair of the visuals is what keeps the interest and is where the movie succeeds. It may not be a complete victory, but genre fans may get a kick out of it.