Agony (original title The Executrix) by Michele Civetta, starring Asia Argento, is a heavily atmospheric Italian-set gothic horror-cum-giallo.
Escape From The Chateau?by Alexa Dalby
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
Is Agony a gothic horror or an Italian giallo, or a bit of both? If you’re a fan of these genres, or of Asia Argento (Isidora), and (in supporting roles) veteran Franco Nero (her only ally Carlo) or Monica Guerritore (a Fellini regular, as family retainer Angelica) you may be sufficiently intrigued to find out.
Isidora is an Italian woman living in New York with her American husband (Jonathan Caouette) and daughter (Salerno Claudia). She suddenly receives news that her mother – who her father told her had died when she was a child – has in fact died only recently. She inherits her mother’s huge estate and a mansion – a castle, almost – in Tuscany and the title of Marquesa. Her father warns her not to go there, but of course she does. Apart from revisiting her past, she wants to find out more about her mother, who she is too young to remember.
Agony is hugely atmospheric, visually and musically. The Tuscan mansion is creepily decayed, a mysterious woman in red, feudal villagers and Angelica know something sinister they’re not telling Isidora, a family curse and ravens circling above a ruined tower, so you know it can’t possibly end well. Isidora’s descent from her dreams of satanic rites into madness is telegraphed from the start.
The cast speak the mainly English dialogue, with varying degrees of success. Director Michele Civetta, in his first film, uses heavy-handed red filters for the traditional horror sequences. Somewhere in there could be shards of a metaphor of trauma handed down from mother to daughter but it’s all mixed up with the over-the-top horror elements,
The film was made in 2017 and has only just now seen the light of day, hacked down from 115 to 82 minutes. Unfortunately, titling a film Agony invites facetious comments about what it feels like to have to watch it.
Agony is released on 14 June 2021 on digital platforms in the UK.