Directed By: Fernando Barreda Luna
Starring: Cristian Valencia, Clara Moraleda, Chus Pereiro
Tag line: "A Local Legend Becomes a Terrifying Reality"
Trivia: This movie premiered in the U.S. at the Slamdance Film Festival
Starting with 1999’s Blair Witch Project all the way through to the Paranormal Activity series, the horror genre has been inundated with found footage in the 21st century. Yet, despite the over-saturation of this particular sub-genre, filmmakers can still turn out a good found footage movie every now and then ([REC] is a somewhat recent example, and I liked Grave Encounters). Unfortunately, 2010’s Atrocious, a Spanish import, doesn’t even qualify as an adequate one.
Siblings Christian (Christian Valencia) and July (Clara Moraleda) are aspiring filmmakers, and during a family vacation, they decide to investigate an urban legend that tells of a little girl named Melainie, who, in 1940, supposedly died in the forest surrounding their summer home. According to folklore, Melinda, who always appears in a red dress, shows up whenever someone gets lost in the woods, and helps them find their way out. With the cameras rolling at all times, Christian and July spend hours walking through a maze of vines and trees, never seeing anything. But after a few unexplained events, the two start to question what they’ve been told about Melanie. Is she as helpful a spirit as they were led to believe, or is the truth a bit more sinister than that?
One of the more difficult aspects of found footage is trying to justify the main character’s decision to keep the camera running, even when things begin to fall apart. In Atrocious, I was questioning Christian’s and July’s motivations well before the story ever reached that point. For example, while exploring the summer house (which had been abandoned for 10 years), the two come across a TV in the basement that’s hooked up to a VCR, and find a few old videotapes lying around. So, they decide to watch one, but instead of switching the camera off, Christian positions it so it records their faces as they view the movie. Why? And this isn’t the first time the film had me asking that question (when they stumbled upon a gazebo in the middle of the forest, Christian put the camera down then as well, videotaping the two of them sitting around, doing nothing).
This could have all been written off, of course, if the movie delivered when it needed to. But it doesn’t. Throughout Atrocious, Christian and July spend what seems like an eternity exploring the woods, during which time very little happens. Toss in an incredibly ineffective ending and a final reveal that had me rolling my eyes, and you have a horror flick that doesn’t work on any level.
I wouldn’t go so far as to call the film itself Atrocious, but only because I try to avoid such obvious puns. Still, I didn’t enjoy this one at all.