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ATROCIOUS
DVD. Revolver.

AtrociousIt’s probably tempting critical fate to call your movie Atrocious – negative reviews more or less write themselves after that. Thankfully, this film doesn’t live up to the threat of that title… but it also fails to live up to its own potential.

This is the latest ‘found footage’ horror movie to appear, and is spiritually closer to The Blair Witch Project than most others, featuring as it does extensive footage of people running about lost in the woods. The footage is supplied by teenage brother and sister Cristian (Cristian Valencia) and July (Chus Pereiro), who are a precocious pair of self-styled supernatural investigators – you’ve probably seen equally self-important types on YouTube - who are dragged to an old family home in Sitges for a holiday and decide to investigate a local ghost story while there. They are soon exploring the allegedly haunted woods conveniently located right next to their home, overly expensive camcorders in hand (the idea that they would have two identical, high-end cameras – obviously helpful for the purposes of this movie – is a bit of a stretch, even for soiled brats), where they quickly get lost even in daylight. So when they find themselves out there at night, after their dog has been killed and their little brother has disappeared, things quickly go from bad to worse.

AtrociousAtrocious has a slow build up to the frantic finale, and uses the time to lay the groundwork for some potentially scary supernatural elements – stories of increasing moans in the night, the ghost appearing behind you out of nowhere and ambiguous stories about your eventual fate set up a genuinely chilling final act…. That we don’t get. Don’t get me wrong – the final third of the film is certainly a tense, chaotic affair, as the pair stumble through the woods (that director Fernando Barredo Luna does an efficient job of making look labyrinthine and maze-like, despite the fact that you suspect they are actually not much bigger than a large garden), and justifies the camcorder style by having the protagonists using the night vision setting to see where they are going. But the set up of ghostly effects is disregarded. There’s a good reason for that, plot-wise, but I can’t help thinking that the film is missing a trick by not following the story that it sets up. To say more would spoil the twist – though the final revelation seems too contrived and spells things out rather too clearly. The joy of much supernatural horror – especially of this type – is the level of mystery that is maintained after the credits have rolled. Would The Blair Witch Project’s ending have been as memorable is we were confronted with the actual witch? Of course not. Atrocious manages to pull the rug from under your expectations, but in doing so rather undermines its own story.

That aside though, this is an effectively creepy film that does a good job of building up to the terror, and has some genuinely unnerving imagery. If you enjoy found footage films (and given that the format is perfect for low budget horror, who doesn’t apart from the miserablist crowd who moan about such films when not moaning about remakes, sequels, ‘torture porn’, PG-13 horror, 3D etc), you’ll find much to keep you enthralled here. It’s just a pity that the final pay-off is such a let down.It stops a good film from being a great film.

DAVID FLINT

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