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Haunted Sideshow

Dustin Putman

The Atticus Institute  (2015)
2 Stars
Directed by Chris Sparling.
Cast: William Mapother, Rya Kihlstedt, Sharon Maughan, John Rubinstein, Gerald McCullouch, Suzanne Jamieson, Bill J. Stevens, Anne Betancourt, Jake Carpenter, Brian Chenoweth, Hannah Cowley, Aaron Craven, Joe Guarneri, Ilya Pikus, Lauren Rubin, Trisha Rae Stahl.
2015 – 82 minutes
Not Rated (equivalent of R for violence and language).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman for, January 20, 2015.
"The Atticus Institute" gets points for moving away from the standard found-footage format in lieu of a slickly edited "Dateline"-style faux documentary, but the novelty of this stylistic approach cannot vanquish the nagging sense that this particular story of the supernatural brings nothing new to the fold. The title parapsychology lab is founded in the 1970s by Dr. Henry West (William Mapother), a scientist dedicated to the investigation of exceptional phenomena. He and his researchers are thrown for a loop when they bring in Judith Winstead (Rya Kihlstedt) as their latest test subject. Her powers of clairvoyance and telekinesis are stronger than any West has ever seen, but as he and his team continue to work with her it becomes readily apparent that she is not only dangerous, but quite possibly under the control of a demonic entity.

Written and directed by Chris Sparling (who previously penned the 2012 thriller "ATM"), "The Atticus Institute" is well constructed, an assemblage of present-day talking heads with vintage photographs and archival footage taken by the Atticus Institute prior to the U.S. government shutting them down in 1976. With the exception of a few affected supporting performances that fleetingly break the spell, the film mostly convinces as a particularly eerie, sensationalistic doc, but then grows repetitive by the second act as the narrative drags toward a disposable conclusion. The film is admirably constructed, but the derivative script makes it difficult for one to become too enthused by the stock goings-on.
© 2015 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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