DVD review: Atrocious

WHENEVER a new ‘found-footage’ film is due for release, it’s a safe bet it will be of the horror variety.

It’s a sub-genre that has quickly become saturated with poor to average efforts – Apollo 18 and Paranormal Activity 2 spring to mind as just a couple that were woeful.

So when yet another is being promoted, it’s not unfair to say it may well be approached with scepticism.

However, to counter that feeling is the fact it’s a Spanish/Mexican production – and we all know just how superb [Rec] and [Rec]2 were, so maybe hopes could be higher for Atrocious.

Written and directed by Fernando Barreda Luna, it claims to be based on actual events (don’t they all?!) around April 4, 2010.

Christian (Christian Valencia) and July (Clara Moraleda) are the teenage kids of the Quintilla family who decide on getting away to a large country house in Sitges.

After arriving – through the medium of the found footage – we discover the teenagers are aware of a local urban myth about girl in the Garraf woods. Legend has it that anyone who gets lost in those woods, should they come face-to-face with the mystery woman, will be lead out to safety.

However, a family friend – during a visit to the house – informs the children of a more sinister side to the tale. Apparently you shouldn’t turn your back on the woman or all manner of horrible things will happen to anyone who does.

As the young investigators go about their days at the house documenting everything with handheld cameras, strange things start to happen that remain unexplained.

On the fifth day of the trip, the family was found dead, with only the footage as a pointer towards what happened during those fateful nights in the middle of nowhere.

Atrocious works on a few different levels – creating a dread-filled atmosphere with some impressive performances, especially from Valencia and Moraleda.

Rather than the shaky camera work expected of Hollywood films like Cloverfield – where the camera is actually a lot more steady than it may appear – helmer Luna decided to let the kids use the cameras to document what happens without any aids, giving it more realistic feel.

Helping add to the tension was the little fact that no-one on the crew or in the cast knew how the film would end. They got the script a couple of pages at a time in a bid to elicit more believable reactions from them when the shit really hits the fan.

One of the most effective sequences in the film is during a 10-minute spell within the maze-like woods next to the house. After running in to try and find their baby brother – who goes missing during the night – Christian runs ahead of July, leaving himself lost and in the dark, with only a small torch as his light.

He spends the next five or so minutes running around the maze looking for his sister but, frustratingly, ends up going round in circles in a blind panic. It’s a breathless series of scenes that leave the viewer feeling both claustrophobic and exhausted.

Many of the scenes within the maze become extremely nerve-wracking (mainly due to being unable to really see what’s in the darkness). When events escalate within the country house, it really cranks things up a notch with some genuinely unsettling moments and a very neat twist that was completely unexpected, which was a pleasant surprise.

Luna is definitely a name to look out for – following in the footsteps of Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza (of [Rec] fame) – after this impressive debut.

Atrocious is released in UK cinemas on September 16 and released on DVD Monday, September 19.

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