Men murder whores; women murder their babies. Where the fuck does that leave Agnes? Sure she’s a serial killer but she’s alarmingly adept not just at murder but at slow, meticulous torture. She surveys a therapy group that meets about their hostage experiences, and takes notes.
Her most recent victim is chained up in her basement right now. Mike (Robert Notman) is a private detective who ironically came asking after a former victim from a decade ago. Now he’s in chains, starving to death while she plays games with him. Agnes sees beauty in other people’s pain.
This movie is fucked up, totally, totally fucked up. But if you have the stomach for it, the writing is exceptionally good for this genre of film. Lora Burke, as Agnes, is perfectly cast. Agnes is a psychopath but Burke never overplays her. She’s deeply disturbed but can come off perfectly sane and reasonable. Even more astonishing, she can say the most distressing things so pleasantly it takes a moment before your ears truly catch up to what they’re hearing.
Over time, Agnes and Mike form a bond that defies categorization. The film zings between victimization, sadism, cruelty, and remorselessness. Abu Ghraib’s got nothing on Agnes. She does abuse and mind-control like nobody’s business. But it’s not as brutal to watch as you might think; the one scene that made me GOL (gasp out loud) involved off-brand processed cheese, and believe me, that’s enough.
The most interesting thing about this movie is your reaction to it. Burke’s performance is so measured, it’s a struggle not to root for the bad guy. And she’s a very bad guy.