Poor Agnes (2017) – Fantasia Film Festival Review

Poor Agnes just saw its premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal, and I had the privilege of viewing it. Starring Lora Burke and Robert Notman, Poor Agnes is an intense and unpredictable film. The relationship between victim and killer is never viewed as much more than one killing the other. These are still people, however, and relationships can be explored and developed. 

Poor Agnes primarily focuses on two characters, Agnes Poelzl and Mike, played by Lora Burke and Robert Notman respectively. Agnes is a brilliant psychopath and serial killer who is lost in a dream of violence and manipulation. Mike is a private investigator who is investigating Agnes on behalf of a former victim’s family. When he asks the wrong questions, Agnes takes him captive and exposes him to extreme violence and torture. Eventually, though, a relationship develops and we’re given a view of the killer/victim relationship we don’t typically get to see. There’s really no other way of putting it, but Agnes and Mike have a fucked up relationship and it’s interesting to see how it progresses throughout the film. Agnes is unpredictable and terrifying, and you never quite know what she’ll do to Mike next. Then there are moments of tenderness and what seems like a genuine fondness, where Mike and Agnes almost seem like a couple. The chemistry between both Burke and Notman felt real, and I think that they made the relationship work.

I mainly want to focus, however, on Lora Burke. She’s the standout in Poor Agnes. Yes, she plays the titular character, but she brings Agnes to life. You can put any other actress in that role, and you won’t get the performance you get out of Burke. Agnes is supposed to be a brilliant psychopath, and Burke nailed that. She’s smart and witty. Throughout the film, you’ll hear Lora Burke’s voice often speaking philosophically about God and love and what she does to people. One of my favorite lines was, “I never feel sorry for the people I hurt, because I hurt the right people.” That’s terrifying. Agnes obviously has a distorted view of life, and it really adds to the unpredictable nature of the character. How do you know if you’re one of what she considers the good people? 

Every time that Burke was on the screen, she stole the spotlight. She looked calm and confident, and it really fit with the character. Agnes is supposed to be in charge, and Burke was just that. Every scene was better when she was in it. She brought life to a character with an intense and smart performance. Every time that Agnes would hurt Mike or another character, you could see a slight smile come across her face. It was subtle, but it added so much to the character.

I was really pleased, also, with how Agnes was portrayed. She’s a serial killer, but the character never felt like a stereotype. Yes, she was smart, but she didn’t seem dainty or fragile. You often saw Agnes cutting wood, or you’d see her running or doing some other workout. Not only could Agnes outsmart you and manipulate you, she could also kick your ass. I loved the character, and I’m glad that Agnes is portrayed as a very strong female.

I really don’t have much I can say about what the film could improve on. It was a gorgeous movie with a good soundtrack, a good cast, and an interesting premise. Poor Agnes did so much right, and I’m walking away very impressed.

Poor Agnes is, without a doubt, the best movie I’ve seen all year. It’s the best movie I’ve seen in a very long time. It left a lasting impression on me, and I’ve been thinking about it nonstop since I finished it. Lora Burke was phenomenal and the story was interesting and never felt confusing or nonsensical. All I can do is urge you to check out Poor Agnes as soon as you can. Will you be checking out Poor Agnes when it’s released? Let us know in the comments below, and stay tuned for more news on when you can see Poor Agnes.

 

About Matt Stumpf

My name's Matt, and I love all things horror. Books, movies, video games; you name it, I like it. Martyrs is my favorite horror film, and everyone should watch it. I also have a soft-spot for those cheesy 80's slashers. I'm still slightly convinced that Faces of Death is real.

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