So the found footage bandwagon rolls on, but its back wheels are looking pretty wobbly and twitching corpses are falling out the back as it trundles down its well worn road. Atrocious is the latest in a long line of found footage horrors out this year and not the last if the schedule for the rest of the year is to be believed. This adds very little to the genre and despite a very tense ten or so minutes is pretty much a seen it all before affair.
Our film begins with siblings Cristian and July Quintanilla packing up in their college dorm and returning to the family home in Sitges, Spain. Both of them seem keen on the use of a camcorder although it’s never made clear if this is because they are film students or not. The family home is surrounded by forests and has in its gardens a large overgrown maze. There is apparently a local legend surrounding a ghostly girl that lives in the woods and Cristian and July film everything hoping to catch something on camera. Predictably things start going bump in the night, their parents act suspicious every time the ghostly girl is mentioned and something horrible is lurking in the grounds around their home. When the family dog disappears things start to get really eerie. The film takes the format of hours of edited video uncovered by police following the climax of the story and does that occasional fast forward and rewind thing that worked in Paranormal Activity.
If you have seen The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity you really don’t need to see this, it’s a mash up of the two and much like those films you don’t see much. I have to admit though that in the middle of the film there is a sequence where everyone runs into the grounds outside looking for the lost younger sibling that was unbearably tense. There are endless shots from cameras being carted around the woods in the dark which go on for a really long time. It shows you nothing but forest and all you hear is the panting of the character carrying the camera. You keep expecting something to jump out and it's almost unbearable how dragged out this is. Sadly it’s a bit of a case of the emperors new clothes because once the menace is revealed, it’s not all that special.
The problem with a lot of these sorts of films is that they don’t really take time to develop character or story anymore and think that their found footage gimmick is enough. Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield work because they have well drawn characters at the start of the movie who are developed just enough so that you care when the terror starts to happen. Atrocious launches full on into the scares almost immediately and you barely know the family portrayed on screen. Worse still is that the characters motivations for carrying cameras around with them constantly defy logic or sense. There is a scene where a major event occurs and the actors almost comically grab their cameras first and then react to the situation, it's borderline laughable. In the aforementioned Paranormal Activity the fast forwarding of some of the footage made sense in the context of the film, here it serves no purpose. It seems to just be there because the producers want as many comparisons as possible so they can cash in.
Although Atrocious doesn’t quite live up to its title, the bottom line is that this has been done better recently in Spain in films like Rec and done better in the west in almost any found footage film you care to mention. It’s not a complete waste of time as it does have a scary ten minutes in the middle. If you have to rent something Spanish go for Julia’s Eyes, Rec or The Orphanage instead.
Atrocious is out now on DVD