Young Sophie has been hired to bring food every night to a mysterious old woman who is locked in an attic. Is the old woman a prisoner? Is she dangerous? Each night, as Sophie completes her task, her curiosity draws her closer and closer to what might be her last meal.
And since this film’s setup is so delightfully creepy and wonderful, this particular style of introduction will now be identified by me (and perhaps my avid readers of 2) as the smartest, most entertaining and terrifying way to start a film – short or feature length.
Young orphan Sophie (Louise Ogle) is hired by a mysterious matronly woman (Penny Kohut) – for mere pennies – to deliver food to a seemingly sick woman in the attic of a massive home. But there are a few very specific rules which Sophie must understand and follow – why? For her own safety? Because the strange woman in the attic has allergies? Or perhaps it’s some form of punishment for the woman in the attic? You shall soon see, and eventually Sophie’s curiosity gets the best of her, and she breaks the rules on a subsequent delivery.
The Others. Gremlins. Even Scream.
In horror films, rules are made to be broken. And right here, right now, as I tell you about Agatha, let’s acknowledge that films beginning with uptight and cryptic, solid rules – are generally going to turn out brilliant and be heralded as a winner.
Agatha is no exception.
The selling of the rules is key in a film like this, and the delivery from the matronly woman in the opening moments of Agatha; are simply chilling.
The film hits all the right notes – clever editing which shows the passage of time, sound design to give you nightmares (Agatha’s first feeding is just spine-chilling); and the wide-eyed performance from little Ms. Ogle is the stuff dreams are made of. She perfectly captures the curiosity and absent-mindedness of a small child. And her looking about as she listens to the matronly woman at the beginning – followed by her inspired and realistic reaction from the matron’s stern, “Do you understand!?” – along with her dirty face and innocent eyes – well, we love little Sophie from the get-go. And for a film with not much dialogue after those initial warnings, and such a short running time, that’s a monumental feat indeed.
The film is a period piece, and other than a questionable US flag flapping outdoors (I couldn’t tell how many stars it had), the costumes and set design truly hit their mark. The Indian-head pennies were a very nice touch.
And the frequent return to a gate on the home’s property – a perfect ratchet-up of suspense and tension – followed by a dark final reveal, is a masterful touch. The film gives just enough for you to know what has happened, but leaves plenty of unanswered questions – appetizingly so.
Look, Agatha has everything you want from a horror short – oodles of dark mood, a ghoulishly chilling set-up, performers who seal the deal and that eerie final reveal.
Agatha will be playing at Screamfest in Hollywood at the TCL Chinese Theatres. The festival runs from October 18th through October 27th. And you can catch Agatha on Sunday, October 23rd in the 2pm block.
At press, no trailer was available.