Saturday, 17 September 2011

Review - Atrocious (2010 - Dir. Fernando Barreda Luna)

I'm going to avoid the obvious opening sentence for this review. Many won't. If you call your film Atrocious it's got to be stunning or you're asking for trouble.

It's not stunning. It's not even passable. How do films like this even get released? Found footage films are starting to get really tiring. You can only watch so much of someone running round a forest, filmed in amateur-o-vision, before you lapse into a coma. But wait, there's an exciting twist in Atrocious, the forest is filled with spiky bamboo and it's a maze. In reality, you still end up watching endless, interminable shots of someone running round a forest. The maze is in no way visually interesting. It looks like an overgrown maze in an unloved, run down park. 

But our crafty filmmaker has got other tricks up his sleeve. Cristian, the brother in the family, tells his sister July to look at a creepy gate. Er, it's a gate. Not creepy. Later on he finds a vague path through the bamboo. He continually describes it as 'cool'. Really, it's another virtually indistinguishable path through the forest. Not cool. Show me something creepy or cool, don't just tell me that it is.

Christian and July are investigating an uninspiring urban legend of a lost girl who shows you the way when you become lost in the woods. They are filming their investigation. Why is it that in this type of film, where the characters are supposed filmmakers, they have no cinematic ambition? The closest we get to style is a locked off shot for an interview with a friend of the family. Everything else is handheld and worse than your average family's holiday footage of Skegvegas. I could understand it if the style changes from traditional filmmaking to shaky-cam when the action kicks off - this could be quite effective - but rather than adding to the reality of the film, the lack of style pulled me out of the film. I know that they do this to keep costs (very) low, but how much does it cost to have a well composed establishing shot of the house?

There are some positives. There was one moment when I jumped. Shame it was one of those funny jumpy things that you get when you're just about to fall asleep, nothing to do with the film. Somehow, there were moments when I had a shiver down my spine. There was no payoff though, no creepy image or proper scare. The director has the sense - but only after about ten minutes of forest running - to take the action back into the house. Potentials for scares abound in this section. There aren't any. Not even one.

When the best thing about a film is a dog called Robin - and he's not in it for long - you know things are not good. Please, let this be an end to poorly made found footage films. If you want to see it done well, watch Lake Mungo

If you like this you could also try:
Lake Mungo, Rec, The Silent House, Paranormal Activity.

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