By: Kayla Caldwell
With a celebrity televangelist, a long-jaded disgraced priest, a strict dictator of a nun, and quite a bit of face-biting, AGNES is not your typical exorcism film. You get more from AGNES each time you watch it, and for even more insight, we got to chat with the film's director, Mickey Reece, and one of its stars, Molly C. Quinn. Scroll on below to read about the inspiration for the film, what it was like to get into character as sister Mary (Quinn), and what they hope viewers take from AGNES.
CREEPY KINGDOM: What inspired AGNES?
MICKEY REECE: You know, I wish there was some big grand grand plan behind it all, but it was kind of like, “Hey, let's play with nuns next, you know what I mean?”
CREEPY KINGDOM: Do you have a background in Catholicism - like, were you raised Catholic?
MICKEY REECE: I don't, but my co-writer John Selvidge, he did. So I kind of let him take the reins on most of it, you know? You can kind of see by watching the movie, he wrote all of it until Father Black(Chris Browning) arrives. And then, I took Father Black all the way to the sandwich scene, and then John took the sandwich scene. To a degree, when you watch it like that, you can see like, all right, this is where John comes in. This is where Mickey comes in.
CREEPY KINGDOM: It’s an interesting mix, because you clearly can see critiques of the church, but it’s also not as if the movie is about critiquing the church.
MICKEY REECE: Yeah. You know, we begin with a cynical view of the church. And then we kind of end with this, you know, kind of positive reaction to faith. Because the point is, it's not that we're anti-religion, necessarily. I mean, whatever works for somebody, you know? Yep. It was more about playing both sides here. We're going to introduce this element, but then we're going to end it on a happy, kind of melancholy note, that looks at faith and religion positively. So it's not really a movie you can pin down.
CREEPY KINGDOM: Father Black is an interesting character, and kind of changes the tone for a bit to make it a more comedic film. Could you talk a bit about that character?
MICKEY REECE: Honestly, you know, I'm glad you brought that up. I kind of forgot about it, that we had been starting to plan a movie that would be all about Father Black. It was about his entire story, where he was kind of this, televangelist figure like this very, this important religious figure, like Jerry Falwell or a Jim Bakker kind of guy. But, he was doing exorcisms. I had kind of envisioned a whole movie about that guy.
CREEPY KINGDOM: It was interesting timing, too, because I had just seen that movie, The Eyes of Tammy Faye. Father Black is a like a little taste of a “famous” priest.
MICKEY REECE: You know, it was actually written for him to be on a Jenny Jones kind of show. You swing for the fences, but then when you get there, and it's like, right, well they didn't give us the money to create a whole Jenny Jones studio. Let's just figure out another way.
CREEPY KINGDOM: It’s also interesting that Rachel True is in this exorcism movie starring as a nun (Sister Ruth), when she’s known for her role as a teenage witch in The Craft.
MICKEY REECE: Of course we were aware of casting her. It was like, oh yeah, awesome… in the slow-mo scene where they're all walking down the hall, Rachel True’s holding her rosary. I remember someone [on set] saying, like, they wouldn't be holding the rosary like that. Rachel did that. It was all her choice, and she told me what was going on. And I was like, “Oh yeah, we're keeping that.” It's kind of an homage to The Craft, because she's walking in the photo holding the necklace [Rosary].
CREEPY KINGDOM: I love that. And that scene was so fun, because I feel like it's one of the more playful scenes, because the way they’re walking looks like they’re rock stars about to hit the stage.
MICKEY REECE: That's the idea. With the first half of the movie, knowing how the second half of the movie was going to go, it was like, now we can go balls to the wall in this first half, and be as satirical and fun as we want.
CREEPY KINGDOM: A lot of exorcism movies are kind of formulaic, and this one, even though the exorcism brings them all together, that's not what it's necessarily about. When it goes off with Mary, it is kind of like a whole different movie.
MICKEY REECE: We're not looking for a reason behind it all. It's just kind of like, here is this placement of this character in this church. Then, that life is over, and this is her new life. It's not necessarily to create an agenda or a very specific theme. The whole theme is just faith in general. So the second half is more following Mary, and just kind of hanging out with her in her space, and into the real world. There’s the plot-driven first half, and then in the second half you’re expecting answers, but there are no answers.The answer is in the sandwich scene at the end, which is kind of the final analogy for the whole movie.
CREEPY KINGDOM: How did you get in the head space for Mary? It must have been difficult because, I mean, right from the beginning, she's getting the wrath of Mother Superior (Mary Buss) just for being friends with Agnes.
MOLLY C. QUINN: I think Mother Superior knows that Mary isn't in the convent to worship God. I think she knows that Mary’s not there for, you know, the highest intentions. I think she doesn't know exactly what's going on, but you know, she's one of those older women who feels like they can just see inside your brain. It's terrifying. That's one of the things that really helped to get in the head space for Mary, because I feel like she feels like it's either people can fully see through her, and they do not approve of her, or they don't take any time to think about her as a person, and she's invisible - and both of those things are crazy-making.
CREEPY KINGDOM: The movie mentioned having a “pure heart” many times. I guess they thought Mary didn’t have a pure heart.
MOLLY C. QUINN: Exactly, which is so not true, because, if anything, what Mary had was a completely pure heart that is just shattered, by this great loss that she carries around that, you know, kind of fuels this portion of her life. It's really sad to think that if Mother Superior had just maybe had a kind hand to put on Mary's shoulder, and a willingness to listen, she might have actually been able to produce a positive change, and be a positive force in Mary's life. But what tends to happen, as we know as women, is that people aren't really willing to do that. You know, they don't actually want to listen. They just want you to fall in line.
CREEPY KINGDOM: That's a really good point. Mary also has this kind of tension with Father Donaghue (Ben Hall). They share some kind of really, I don't know, packed glances.
MOLLY C. QUINN: They do. I think it's because Mary and Father Donaghue are bonded by knowing that they each hold a secret, that secret being that quite honestly, I don't think they believe in God. You know, you have Father Donaghue, who's already dealing with his own personal issues. Even though he presents as a very kind man, he's very honest with Benjamin (Jake Horowitz) before getting to the convent that he doesn't believe in demons, and he doesn't believe in possession. Mary, it takes longer for her to be that honest, but we see her be confronted by that demon that's possessing Agnes, you know, telling her that you've never been honest, that you need to, you know, bury the dead, quite literally. So I think those glances are just kind of… haven't you had that happen before? You look at someone and without saying anything, it's just like, you know, something's off - and they know something's off with you. You can be in that, just like kind of perfect precarious place of seeming like you're okay to the world, but on the inside, you know you’re just very much not okay. I think in those moments, you connect with others going through that same thing.
CREEPY KINGDOM: It's interesting that you say that, because something else I noted is the film has these supernatural elements, because of the exorcism, but really a lot of what Mary goes through is unfortunately super relatable. You know, dealing with grief or not dealing with it, dealing with men who are in superior positions trying to take advantage, struggling with money, etc.
MOLLY C. QUINN: Yes. It's daily horror. You know, the struggle to survive. It's not the struggle to thrive, you know, to be a healthy person - you're barely holding on. So how is there time to do more than the baseline, you know? You have people around you that aren't helping you get ahead, that want to use you for, you know, you have the lecherous boss (Chris Sullivan) at the grocery store, you have her landlord (Bruce Davis) who is assuming like you and him have some type of sexual relationship, when you don’t, and he's also making you pay more money that you don't have. And then, even when she gets the second job, and she's talking to her fellow employee at the laundromat, she doesn't believe her… She's just kind of constantly being doubted and invalidated, and no one asks her a question. The only person who ever asked her a question is the demon.
CREEPY KINGDOM: What do you hope people take away from Agnes?
MOLLY C. QUINN: I would hope that you don't make presumptions about people. I think making presumptions is a defense mechanism, because we want to believe as people that we understand how the world works, you know? And so we put things on other people, because that's our mindset. But that does nothing to help your fellow human beings. So maybe instead of making that presumption, taking a second to genuinely ask how someone is doing, and be ready to listen.
CREEPY KINGDOM: Yeah. You just reminded me of the scene when Mary goes to tell Mother Superior that things with Agnes are not okay, and she doesn’t even listen. She just calls her a slut.
MOLLY C. QUINN: Exactly, exactly. Everyone believes that they know what's right, and this child, Mary, she shouldn't be there… It's infuriating, right? Yeah. Just in the shake of your head, like, I see it. And you really start to see that fury build up in Mary, and then, you know, finally explode. Luckily, you know, by the end, she does find someone, in father Benjamin, who is willing to at least try to listen.
AGNES is available to rent/buy on VOD starting December 10!