BY DEBORAH KAVIS
Timothy Vandenberg’s AGATHA (2015) is a gripping short that fills the viewer with a sense of dread from start to finish. As the film opens, we are introduced to a young girl who is being instructed of her duties to bring food upstairs each night to a mysterious woman….
We pick up several clues about the individual who resides upstairs, without being told anything outright. Save for the conversation in the opening scene, there is no further dialogue in AGATHA. The use of sound to create an air of mystery and discomfort is incredibly well-executed in this film – an overwhelming feeling of tension hangs in the air of each scene, created by both by the classic horror-inspired soundscape as well as the dark and drab color palette of the upstairs attic, which stands in stark contrast to the brightness of the opening scene.
An item of particular interest is the handful of close-up shots, which masterfully further the plot without showing too much. For one, each dish of raw meat that is brought upstairs by the young girl is intently focused on, driving the point home to the viewer that the woman being fed has a unique and startling appetite. Moreover, the closeup of the woman’s bloodied ankle, bound with a metal shackle, attached to a chain suggests more than words could. The shots of the young girls dirty hand receiving her pittance after each night is also very telling. Finally, the shots of the young girl’s boots plays a significant part in the fear factor created by the film’s ending.
The best part about this short film is that fact that words cease to be necessary. Once the premise is established — simply and elegantly — it is up to the viewer to watch and attempt to piece together the mystery behind the Agatha character. in fact, even by the film’s end, although the fate of the young girl is heavily implied, it is never expressly spelled out, leaving the viewer unsettled and still curious.
AGATHA screens at Screamfest, Sunday, October 23, 2016.