Arriving at the creaky old mansion, Cristian and July discover a locked gate leading to a hedge maze next door. Their parents forbid them -- and their younger brother Jose -- from entering, but the two older siblings, bored and intrigued, can't help themselves. They venture into the labyrinth on several instances, each time coming across something that piques their interest -- a well, an altar, a shadowy figure -- but their discoveries turn increasingly dark, and they begin to suspect that the legend of the helpful little girl might be more sinister than they imagined.
The End Result
Even for a style of film with notoriously kinetic camerawork, Atrocious is herky-jerky, and combined with an odd (and presumably unintentional) strobing halo effect, the nighttime scenes can be downright uncomfortable to watch. Luckily for your eyes, they don't last too long (the running time is barely 70 minutes), and I suppose it can be argued that the discomfort enhances the uneasy realism of the moment. Indeed, you do feel like you're getting lost in the woods along with the characters.
It's this realism that helps Atrocious succeed where others of its ilk have failed. The acting feels natural, the dialogue sounds off the cuff, the camera movements don't seem premeditated and the editing isn't overly neat. (This, after all, is supposed to be raw footage culled from a camera found at a crime scene.) As movies like this tend to do -- realism and all -- the ending leaves some things up in the air, but it actually provides more concrete answers than many similar films. The plot, though, is still thin (Did I mention 70 minutes?) and could use some additional work to more effectively tie in the twist ending.
Atrocious is hardly groundbreaking and even with its short running time, is slow to develop, but found footage fans should find it effectively creepy with an outcome that at least steps one toe outside the genre box.
- Acting: B- (Effectively natural, a must for this sort of film.)
- Direction: B (Generates creepy thrills and a sense of mystery.)
- Script: C+ (Thin and unoriginal but with an interesting twist ending.)
- Gore/Effects: C+ (A couple of gore scenes; the camera effects can be a bit annoying.)
- Overall: B- (A [small] step above the typical found footage movie.)
Atrocious is directed by Fernando Barreda Luna and is rated R by the MPAA for grisly images and language throughout. Release date: August 17, 2011.