This movie was screened at Panic Fest.

The dark and surreal fairy tale “Agatha” is an extremely distressing, claustrophobic, avant-garde horror film from co-writers and directors Roland Becerra and Kelly Bigelow Becerra. Utilizing an experimental film process that blends animation with live action, this challenging, nightmarish, and visually haunting deep dive into existentialism lands well outside the boundaries of mainstream filmmaking. Fans of literal narratives and those who despise unanswered questions in their art should look elsewhere, but lovers of the visual arts who are up for a challenge will find so much to dissect in this disorienting and aesthetically complex film.

Using very little dialogue, the film tells the story of The Professor (Ryan Whiting), a chronically depressed man who has just been told that he has a terminal illness. Hoping to find a cure, he follows his strange neighbor Agatha (Emily Joyce-Dial) on a treacherous path into a crumbling urban wasteland. Agatha has a long history of witchcraft blood coursing through her veins, and The Professor willingly lets her lead him into a foreboding, hellish landscape that is a truly unforgiving place.

The storytelling is fragmented, which sometimes feels frustrating. The themes, like the decay of society, the will to survive despite utter misery and total desperation, and the consequences of guilt and regret, are open to endless interpretation — so much so that a dozen people could watch this film and come out of it with twelve different theories, and all of their individual attempts at analysis would be equally correct.

There’s a macabre Lynchian tone and overall mood to the film, and the Becerras have made a compelling and wildly creative use of a limited budget. The aesthetic is visionary, especially for such a small independent film. This is one great looking movie.

“Agatha” is not an easily approachable film. It’s disconcerting and unpleasant (warning: especially for animal lovers), and there are so many moving parts that even its short, one hour run time seems too long. It requires a great deal of mental effort and stamina to get through, but those who reach the end will no doubt appreciate what the film is trying to do and say.

By: Louisa Moore

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