Short Film Review: AGATHA Is A Terrifying Secret Well Worth Discovering

April 18, 2017

Written by Capt McNeely

Georgia Division ZADF Twitter: @ZADF_ORG

The place is Pennsylvania, and the time period is the late 1800’s. On a daily basis, trains teeming with orphaned children would arrive unleashing these urchins onto the city streets. One of these children, a solitary and destitute seven year old girl, is entrusted by an older woman to carry out a simple task on a nightly basis – deliver a plate of food to someone residing in the attic of the woman’s residence. However, there is one important rule she MUST follow, and that is for her to NEVER pass beyond the serving table in the attic.
Albeit mundane and repetitive, this chore proves to be a simple enough way for the young waif to make some much needed money.  But children are naturally curious and eventually it may get the better of this young girl. Who is the person living in this attic, and why are they being secretly confined? These maybe questions this young orphan girl won’t really wish to learn the answers to.
Timothy Vandenberg wrote and directed this chilling and macabre Gothic short film, Agatha. It’s not a story that relies on dialog,  of which there is practically none. Rather it is a film that develops its story visually. Darkness is this films ally, allowing us viewers only to see what it means for us to see, thus building tension and fearful expectations. However there is also a repetition of visuals that instills a certain sense of complacency before ultimately pulling the rug from under the audience in ghastly fashion. The outcome is implicit, but I tend to find implicit imagery on screen has the ability to conjure horrifically explicit visions of what may have transpired, in my own mind…eesh. You know the story is good when it has an atmospheric quality that is able to crawl under your skin and doesn’t need to bombard the audience with overt and graphic imagery.
The trio of women, of whom the cast is comprised, delivered very good performances. Louise Ogle’s portrayal of the Orphan Girl was quite impressive, especially since she was required to express so much while speaking very few words. She exudes an angelic innocence, and is also able to emote an incredible sense of curiosity, trepidation, and ultimately fear. As Mother, Penny Kohut evoked images of a strict schoolmarm. Not necessarily mean, as she initially comes across as somewhat friendly, but definitely short and to the point in her explanation of the child’s duties. Her actions may be based in malicious intent, or the outcome could merely be horrific yet circumstantial. In the role of the tile character, Agatha, Jessica Farmer creates a character that is mysterious and creepy. She doesn’t exaggerate or overplay the character, thus avoiding creating a horrific cliche.
The set design and the wardrobe helped to give a true sense of the time period during which the film is set. The lighting had an appearance of being natural and realistic rather than harsh and artificial, thus helping to preserve a certain tone and atmosphere. I particularly liked the use of shadows creeping across darkened areas.
Bo Webb did an impressive job serving a the film’s cinematographer. Shot framing and composition were well done and camera movements well executed, especially when one considers some of the confined spaces in which he was shooting. The editing helped to give good pacing to the film and decently illustrated the passage of time.
My only real complaint is that it’s a SHORT film, because I definitely want more. BUT it’s an issue that is apparently going to be remedied, since a full length feature based on this short film is in the works. HUZZAH!!!
If you are a fan of Gothic horror stories, this short film is one I definitely recommend. And now with the knowledge of a feature length version in the works, I’m personally waiting with bated breath. So keep coming back, my Little Monsters, as we will keep you updated on any further developments on Mr. Vandenberg’s feature length version of Agatha. 8 / 10

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