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  Agony Asia Goes ARGH
Year: 2020
Director: Michele Civetta
Stars: Asia Argento, Jonathan Caouette, Salerno Claudia, Nick Daly, Ninetto Davoli, Giulia Di Quilio, Monica Guerritore, Molly Jane McCarthy, Franco Nero, Rade Serbedzija, Simone Wasserman
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Isidora (Asia Argento) is an Italian artist with a husband, Michael (Jonathan Caouette) and young daughter (Salerno Claudia, voiced by Molly Jane McCarthy), and they all live together in a swanky New York City apartment. However, one day she is admiring the little girl's artwork when Isidora feels a great disturbance in the Force, and sense that something important has occurred even if she does not know what it specifically is. The answer arrives soon enough, a courier who has a bunch of legal documents which state that her mother has died recently and bequeathed her Tuscan mansion and its surroundings to her. This comes as a surprise - she thought her mother had died thirty years ago.

Not a bad beginning to a horror movie, it sets up some suspense and mystery for our heroine to investigate, and so it was Isidora took her family and after stopping off to remonstrate with her father (Rade Serbedzija), who handily runs a gallery and kept the secret about her mother from her for no good reason he can come up with, they all head off to Italy. There follows some touristy scene setting as the locals may appear sinister, but the mansion has an Old World charm that a little fixing up would improve no end, and the landscape is romantic enough to have Isidora consider inheriting this place is not so bad after all, but the question of what happened to her mother preys on her mind so much that she seems to be flying off the rails as she did.

So it was the old prophecy comes in cycles plot, really, as the lead had been, it appears, predicted to go crazy just as her mother had, but the mere presence of Isidora in this mansion is detrimental to her mental health as she gets Gothic and does that thing they do in conspiracy movies, pores over old texts, books and paintings in full-on Da Vinci Code manner to get to the bottom of the sinister heart of her history. Or at least, that was apparently the idea, only in a watch that screams "troubled production" more often than, well, Asia screams, there was a lot half-finished about Agony that made it hard to get along with, never mind invest in. It had actually been filmed in 2017, but taken a few years to assemble, and as it was directed by Argento's ex Michele Civetta, one wonders what kind of relationship they had while shooting.

Over-relying on the atmosphere of the rambling house was all very well, but there were only so many shots of solarised eyes and a "witch" - possibly Isidora's mother - superimposed over the action you could take. As well as the shabby nature of the results on the screen, not to mention the dodgy dubbing on the little girl, there was the matter of the star being in the strange position of both accusing people through the #MeToo movement and being accused through the #MeToo movement which one can only assume made the producers reluctant to get this completed and released. Now it had been sneaked out into the world in this weird, formless arrangement, assuming Asia had any fans left they would be intrigued to see what she was like in this one, the answer to that being that she started out stilted and ended up hysterical with nothing in between. Agony, originally titled The Executrix, was effectively a curiosity, casting Franco Nero in a small role with an ignominious conclusion, and Ninetto Davoli from the Pier Paolo Pasolini movies as a permagrinning townsperson who knows more than he lets on, but as with all of this, you doubt even the filmmakers knew what was going on here. A definite curate's egg of Gothic.

[Thunderbird release this on digital platforms on June 14th 2021.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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