Premiering at Fantasia Film Festival, Poor Agnes brings with it a unique take on the well worn psychopath hiding in plain sight story. Starring Lora Burke as the Agnes in question and Robert Norman as Mike, her unfortunate victim, Poor Agnes examines the truly twisted relationship that can develop between captor and captive.
Agnes is immediately introduced as a woman who is evil, she knows it and she feels no remorse about it. In fact, she is convinced that she is operating on a higher plane than the rest of us and her ultimate goal is to own someone’s soul. According to her, “When you take a human life you become God just for an instance, but if you take a human mind, you own a soul. Then you are God.” Enter Mike as the unluckiest private detective in the history of time. As a last ditch effort to find a missing person, Mike calls on Agnes only to go from thinking that he might get lucky to chained up in her basement.
Agnes begins her torture of Mike with little things like controlling his food and taking away his identity. His name is no longer Mike; he doesn’t have a name. When he behaves incorrectly, he has to decide where to stab himself as punishment. While Agnes goes out into the world where she indiscriminately kills, joins a Torture Survivors group to take notes and goes on dates in an effort to find more victims, Mike is in her basement just waiting to…die, I guess. While the concept of digging deeper into the why’s and how’s of a psychopath is a truly intriguing premise, the reality of living in an age where our every movement is tracked makes it utterly impossible not to have logic clawing at you and distracting you. No one is looking for Mike? No one is tracing his cell phone or checking his credit card history? What did Agnes do with his car? How has she been getting away with this for a decade?
Mike has been missing for over six weeks, but only one lazy ass detective comes looking for him, accuses Mike of being an alcoholic and then asks Agnes if she’s a prostitute. Huh? As the Stockholm Syndrome grows insidiously deep, Agnes brings in another victim to test Mike’s new boundaries and the question of who’s crazier becomes even more complex. This newest victim has a family who cares about him and an Amber Alert is issued. And yet, no one suspects or questions Agnes despite the fact that she lured him from his place of business in broad daylight. This is beyond asking us to live in a fictional world for 90 minutes. This is just unbelievably distracting.
Overall, Poor Agnes brings up numerous questions, but never really answers them. It’s also confusing whether or not we’re supposed to like Agnes. At times, she is presented as a strangely sympathetic and amusing character, but the next moment, she is painted in a terrible light. I suppose you should never really like a serial killer, but a certain Dexter Morgan proved to be very likable. And I suppose that’s where my biggest gripe comes in. The movie feels like a mishmash of so many stories that came before it and Burke can’t be expected to shoulder this much responsibility. Burke does such a bang up job, that anyone else just looks like they’re still trying to get comfortable in their acting skin. With so many unique questions and observations, it’s a shame that Poor Agnes has a difficult time wading through it’s own muddy waters.
Lisa Fremont | Twitter: @lcfremont