Atrocious DVD Review
Written by Ilan Sheady
DVD released by Revolver Entertainment
Written and Directed by Fernando Barreda Luna
2010, Region 2 (PAL), 75 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD released on 19th September 2011
Cristian Valencia as Cristian Quintanilla
Clara Moraleda as July Quintanilla
Chus Pereiro as Debora Quintanilla
Thanks to a lot of horror films there’s certain things I will never, ever do. I’m never going to stay in a hostel, I’m never going on a roadtrip through Texas, I’m never watching any unlabeled VHS tapes, I’m staying away from, pretty much, the entire Asian continent and now, thanks to Spanish horror Atrocious, I wouldn’t be caught dead walking through a garden maze either.
The ‘handheld camera/mockumentary’ style horror is almost impossible to watch without instantly comparing it to The Blair Witch Project, Rec and Paranormal Activity and were it not for a rare choice for opening the movie you’d be forgiven for pointing out the similarities during every initial scene.
To overcome the suffocating boredom of a family vacation, wannabe film maker Cristian and reluctant tag-along sister July plan to record video evidence of a local legend, the ghost of a girl in red who appears to people lost at night within the surrounding forest.
It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment that Atrocious separates itself from the other films in its sub-genre, and on reflection I’m not fully convinced it even does, but frankly I feel the film is so well made and so intense that I would put it up there as one of the best. There were moments when the characters were filming at night that I felt so anxious I was almost begging for something to jump out at the camera to relieve the pressure I was feeling.
The casting is genuinely perfect. The decision to hire unknown actors hardly makes a difference outside of Spain, but is a wise (if often used) move. The family looks and sounds like a real family, which is often overlooked during auditions. The subtle special effects are incredible and the choice of locations and set pieces are creepier than any I have seen in a while.
The only flaw in the film is the same as with every subtitled movie in that whilst the director relies on the viewer’s eyes being drawn towards one area of the screen, the subtitles insensitively force you to look at the bottom of it and though subtitled movies all have that issue, Atrocious suffers more than most for its choice of locations and frantic filming technique.
Another hurdle that this kind of filming style has is those moments where you just think, “well that’s convenient” as the cameraman/actor places his recording equipment aside and walks forward pointlessly into view to get some extra tension. There are plenty of these in Atrocious, including a camera that seems to turn itself on, but all in all I think this is just nit-picking. In truth the feature length debut for writer and director Fernando Barreda Luna is an extremely well made movie, with everyone in the production process pulling out all the stops to make a bold (if slightly unoriginal) inclusion to the European hall of horror. If you enjoy movies like Paranormal Activity and Blair Witch I wouldn’t miss this. If you hated them then this film certainly won’t convince you otherwise, but is still much, much better than its title suggests.
Video and Audio:
In context of this kind of ‘hand-held’ movie the quality of video is pretty impressive, but even more so is the sound which is extremely important in this film. Whilst there are scenes that are almost pitch black, the audio track more than compensates with a terrifyingly rich amount of depth.
Special features are limited to only a short 14 minute ‘making of’, but when you see the preparation that went into the production you’ll be more than satisfied with the DVD. Still… a trailer wouldn’t be asking for too much and a photo gallery to show off the details that only received a second of screen time would have benefited the production team.