Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Starring Cristian Quintanilla Atauri, July Quintanilla Atauri
Directed by Fernando Barreda Luna
Atrocious - a•tro•cious adj. - Extremely evil or cruel; monstrous.
There are a lot of things in this world which can be easily labeled with the above description. Unspeakable crimes. Brutal and shocking murders. Malevolence can manifest itself in all manner of horrific ways, and in Fernando Barreda Luna's cinéma-vérité style terror tale, wow, does it ever.
Since the success of films like The Blair Witch Project and of course Paranormal Activity, there's been a throng of found footage movies vying for the title of "The Next Big Thing", and unfortunately most of them miss the mark by a mile. We're really reaching the saturation point in this subgenre so if filmmakers decide to go that route, they had better have something unique in mind to grab the audience and hold their attention. Luna's Atrocious succeeds in doing so, but it's a bit of a long hike to get to where it's going.
On April 4th of 2010, the Quintanilla family was found viciously murdered in their countryside house located in the seaside town of Sitges, near Barcelona. What was meant to be a nice quiet vacation at the family's farmhouse turned into one hell of a living, breathing nightmare as siblings Cristian and July (pronounced Julie) brought along their video cameras to document the existence of a ghostly local legend known as the Girl in the Garraf woods.
The family lasted all of five days before horror claimed them. All that was left behind, other than their mutilated bodies, was thirty-seven hours of recorded footage that has been assembled as an attempt to recreate a timeline of events so that local police could search for answers and maybe even images of the killer.
Seriously? This is the perfect setup for a found footage terror tale. With a solid foundation the only thing needed to be successful is a spooky locale, solid acting, and slick direction. For the most part Atrocious delivers all of these, but it's a bumpy road to get there. Coming in at a run time of around eighty minutes, our characters spend a lot of time exploring a hedge maze in the Garraf woods behind their house. A lot of time walking. Even more time running and screaming. So much so that the events started feeling very padded. There's just so much shaky-cam running through green-tinted night-vision around identical bits of foliage that you can do before it starts to feel a bit on the monotonous side.
There are also a couple of the usual near unavoidable pitfalls this type of movie falls into present and accounted for. It's understood why the camera is constantly running in the woods. The light and the night-vision are there so that our characters can see where they are going in the pitch black darkness of the countryside. That's fine, but why is it running in the house when, say, someone knocks on a door and enters a room. Little things like that prove to be distracting because when you're dealing with a cinéma-vérité film, almost anything can break the illusion of realism; and that can really ruin the experience. Still, these moments don't do too much damage, and by the time you get to Atrocious' final act and epilogue, you'll be thoroughly rattled and haunted. The last frame of footage will stay with you for some time after the credits roll and the lights come back on. I haven't been able to shake it yet. That's a very good thing.
If you stick with it, Atrocious will provide you with an intense and at times frightening and disturbing ride. One that if you're a fan of this type of filmmaking you should definitely take. Horror comes in all shapes, sizes, and places. Trust no one, pack a flashlight, and just try and make it through the night.
3 1/2 out of 5
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