Dustin Putman
 This Year

Reviews by Title

Reviews by Year
1997 & previous

Reviews by Rating
4 Star Reviews
3.5 Star Reviews
3 Star Reviews
2.5 Star Reviews
2 Star Reviews
1.5 Star Reviews
1 Star Reviews
0.5 Star Reviews
Zero Star Reviews
Haunted Sideshow

Dustin Putman

Dustin's Review

Capsule Review
Atrocious  (2011)
2 Stars
Directed by Fernando Barreda Luna.
Cast: Cristian Valencia, Clara Moraleda, Chus Pereiro, Sergi Martin, Xavi Doz, Jose Masegosa.
2011 – 75 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for gruesome images and language).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, August 8, 2011.
"Atrocious" opens with the following self-made quotation: "The mind is like a labyrinth in which anyone can get lost." As it turns out, writer-director Fernando Berreda Luna is referring to a literal labyrinth, one that lurks behind the property of a long-abandoned country house in Sitges where the Quintanilla family choose to vacation over Easter break. With camcorders in hand and nothing better to do, 18-year-old Cristian (Cristian Valencia) and sister July (Clara Moraleda) explore the maze of hedges, underbrush and crumbling statues. It's daytime, of course, but still more than creepy enough for them; they've heard, after all, the urban legend of a ghost named Melinda who disappeared while staying at the house and is said to still vengefully lurk in the woods after dark. Cristian and July return to the labyrinth twice more under increasingly ominous circumstances, the last time in the dead of night to follow mother Debora (Chus Pereiro) when 8-year-old kid brother Jose (Sergi Martin) goes missing. By morning's light, there will be few survivors among them.

The nightmare that befalls the Quintanilla clan in Spanish-made horror movie "Atrocious" is positioned as found footage under investigation by the National Police Department. Full of shaky camerawork and first-person POVs, the film is but the latest answer to 1999's "The Blair Witch Project." It's a subgenre that works well when done correctly—when, for example, the acting is natural enough to equate authenticity and there is no added artifice, like a needless music score (we're looking at you, 2007's "Diary of the Dead")—and one that lends a jittery, "you-are-there" sense of anything-goes cinéma vérité unpredictability to the proceedings. Here, the narrative also serves as a captivating mystery. Is the danger that edges closer to Cristian and his family supernatural in nature, or all too real?

Better in its setup than in its payoff—truth be told, the most startling moment is unintentional, the subtle movement of a darkly obscured background object hanging from the ceiling downright chilling—"Atrocious" is effective in the lingering threat that something scary is about to pop out at any given moment. The story has some holes once its details are revealed, and the reason why no one calls for help on their cell phones when things grow obviously dire is a frustrating oversight. It is obvious, too, that the picture's creation grew from writer-director Fernando Berreda Luna's access to a really great, spooky, secluded location rather than the other way around. All the same, it is a great, spooky, secluded location—one that viewers will not soon forget. "Atrocious" is far from tops in the annals of "found-footage" thrillers, but it does know how to wrestle with expectations and ratchet suspense when it gets down to it.
© 2011 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman