MOVIE: ** (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
Almost a decade and a half ago, when “The Blair Witch Project” first started to stir up mainstream audiences, who’d have thought that we’d be where we are now with found footage films. It’s a strange breed, existing almost entirely in the horror genre, with the only exception being mockumentary movies and TV shows like “The Office.” When “The Blair Witch Project” debuted in the late 1990s, few expected that the sub-genre would still be going strong with movies like the “Paranormal Activity” franchise tearing up the box office.
On the whole, I enjoy found footage movies, but like a zombie flick, to be effective they must find new ground. If they don’t find that new ground, they aren’t all bad, but they don’t rise above the fray.
“Atrocious” is a Spanish found footage film that plays out more like “The Blair Witch Project” than it does “Paranormal Activity” (or “[REC],” for that matter, considering its language similarity). The story follows a family who goes to live in their country home for a summer. Bored, the kids bring along some video cameras in the hopes of capturing on tape a local ghost legend. However, after several nights, they realize that something is definitely out there, and it is dangerous.
Unlike the aforementioned “[REC],” “Atrocious” takes a while to get to the action. You know there’s something eerie happening, but the film doesn’t stampeded in that direction right away. Depending on your affinity to these types of films, this will be pleasant or a chore. Even though I like the genre somewhat, it wore on me. Perhaps it was the fact that the film is in Spanish, so there was plenty of need to read the subtitles. (For the record, the DVD does come with an English-language track, which might be an option for someone not interested in reading captions for mostly improvised dialogue.)
What “Atrocious” has going for it is the setting and the presentation. The location used for the house is plenty creepy in an authentic way. And the actors carry the story well enough. The ending is okay, but not fantastic, though I won’t say it’s not worth sitting through the film.
The major stumbling block I had with this film – aside from the things that plague other found footage films, like the need for the subjects to videotape everything, even when they’re in dire danger – is that there just isn’t enough substance to stretch it out to a feature-length film. While the key moments are effective, there’s a lot of wandering around to keep my attention. The last half hour is filled with excessive “Blair Witch” moments with a shakycam running through the woods, and this softens the eventual conclusion.
Still, if you’re a fan of found footage horror, and you’re open to a foreign take on the matter, give this one a whirl.
Features on this DVD include a Spanish-language documentary “Making of Atrocious.”