Saturday, April 22, 2023

Bewitched in Moving Paintings: Agatha (2023) Review [Panic Fest 2023]

Directors: Roland Becerra, Kelly Bigelow Becerra

At this last year’s Academy Awards, Guillermo del Toro stepped up to the podium upon winning the Oscar for Best Animated Film and talked about how animated features are ‘not a genre, but still cinema.’ While I’m sure readers on this site will more than likely know this already, it’s a great reminder that animation is just a choice in creating cinema and not inherently separate. 

This year, Panic Fest 2023 showcased a rather unique “animated” horror feature that struck a unique chord with me. Agatha became an unnerving cinematic venture that burrowed under my skin with its distinctive visuals that blend animation and live action in one of the most fascinating ways. It’s the kind of experimental style in film that warrants a viewing, even if it makes some choices that may alienate some viewers.

My screening included a brief introduction by one of the directors, Kelly Bigelow Becerra and she notes that the film was a combination of animation and live action where the footage of the actors was painted – frame by frame – over with the animation. It’s an interesting expectation that’s set prior to the film. It’s almost necessary because being thrown into the film might be a bit overwhelming for those not expecting what it is bringing to the table. 

Like Mad God or The Spine of Night, Agatha uses its animated elements to create a sense of fantastical and nightmarish tonality to separate the film from its sense of reality. And, boy howdy, does Agatha like to play in that space. The film features almost no dialogue and the manner of its animation, a swirling oil painting look of Lovecraftian intent, creates its own sense of movement and disjointedness that adds to the story. 

A story that, might I add, is so loosely constructed and mostly told visually, that it dabbles in some weighty themes about loss, resurrection, sickness, and health that it will definitely leave a shadow on its viewer. Its odd mixture of urban wasteland and dead forest elements as a setting gives the entire thing an “urban folk horror” aspect that creeps into modern fable territory, particularly as it reveals who Agatha is as a character and the role that our main protagonist, a sick older gentleman struggling with finding a way forward in life with a negative health prognosis, plays into it all. 

Some viewers may struggle with the film’s inherent lack of “plot”, but it’s a blessing in this case as the plot never gets in the way of the story. Not to mention that the film works blissfully at a 60-minute run time, never overstaying its welcome with an audience. It was probably a maneuver to limit its run time to save on the cost of its visual style, but it works impressively well in keeping its flow moving. 


Although I can already see some viewers claiming that Agatha works more as a cinematic curiosity than anything else, it’s a film that really stuck with me as I worked my way through the Panic Fest 2023 lineup. It’s such a boldly envisioned and executed slice of cinema that it’s really hard for me not to give it all the credit it deserves. It’s visually a stunner, it works in an unnerving manner, and it hits some hard-hitting horror moments impressively. 

Agatha carries a spell and while it may not work for everyone, it certainly cast its power on me. 

Written By Matt Malpica Reifschneider

No comments:

Post a Comment