Over the past decade the “found-footage” sub-genre has become a staple of horror cinema. Sure it dates back many a year to films like Cannibal Holocaust but since The Blair Witch Project in ’99 it has been used by both independents and big-shiny-studios as a cost effective way of spooking audiences. Sometimes the results have been special ([Rec], Paranormal Activity), sometimes they’ve been piss poor (Paranormal Activity, *slight retch* Diary of the Dead). Director Fernando Barreda Luna is the latest filmmaker to attempt to scare us with a budget of £18.50.
The footage is presented as a found-footage purchased by a horror production company and cut into a film. Perhaps a comment on the horror industries lust for more cheap-and-ready found footage projects or simply a different way of presenting the footage, either way it’s a strange wink to the audience. Our intrepid camera persons on this voyage of terror are Cristian and July, two teenagers off on vacation with their parents to the mother’s old home. Hearing tales about a ghost that lurks in the surrounding forest they decide to try and document the spectre and become internet ghost hunting sensations.
As the family arrive at the seemingly grand estate house things begin pleasant enough. The parents roll their eyes at their children’s shenanigans, the house seems a bit run down, a friend comes to visit. But what’s this? The friend get’s all dark and tells the story of the girl in the woods. The mother starts getting tense about not going into the woods, even during the day. Especially do not let the dog out. What’s the dog barking at in the over-night camera recording. As unexplained events begin to creep in things get steadily worse and more horrific for the filmmakers as they are dragged, threatened and hunted by this “supernatural” being. Luckily for us it’s all on tape.
Whilst there’s nothing inherently bad about Atrocious, there’s also not enough going on to really sing it’s praises. It is an incredibly simple film. Simple in premise and execution. I’m not saying that that is always a bad thing. Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest. But there is nothing to Atrocious that we have not seen before. I’m sorry to make such a lazy comparison but there is nothing here that The Blair Witch did not show us – more effectively over a decade ago. The film does have a couple of creepy chills to it. But these scares come from fundamental things like screams in the dark and unearthly noises that tend to unease most people.
The two leads Cristian Valencia and Clara Moraleda make for spirited heroes, they present a believable brother/sister bond and I did find myself caring about what happened to them. The film did also leave me to wander whether they will make it or not, only within the final twenty minutes did I start to see exactly where the conclusion was heading. It is something of a twist. I apologise to anyone who hates to know if there is “a twist”.
There was one glaring plot point though that could not escape my mind the entire way through the film. Something so blindingly obvious and ridiculous it almost renders the film as pointless. The house the family stay in was the mother’s childhood home. She knows the stories of the ghost and believes it. She also believes it is a murderous ghost. The parents spend all their time warning the children not to go into the woods by day or night, always keep an eye on the dog etc. There is palpable fear of these ghostly ghoul. And these people have come here for a quiet holiday away! What the fuck is wrong with these people? It’s like going for a quiet afternoon read in a lion enclosure and spending the whole time pissing yourself with fear that the lion might eat your head off.
It’s a plot hole that I could not get around. Whilst the ending makes a little more sense of it, it’s not enough to transform the films logic. Like I said Atrocious is not necessarily a bad film, it’s competently made in most areas and has a few creeps here and there. But in the pantheon of “found-footage” horror it will likely sit with the Diary of the Dead’s in the forgotten squad. More originality in plotting and execution is essentially what the film needs.