Sunday, October 28, 2012

Atrocious (2010)

Warning: this review contains spoilers. Huge spoilers.

Atrocious is one of those rare films that didn't develop in the direction I was hoping for, but instead of disappointment, spark appreciation because the direction it did develop in was very intriguing. It's a pretty standard found footage premise: kids film their exploration of the woods in search of a country legend - in this case, the "woods" is a garden maze type labyrinth (excellent idea!), and the legend is about the ghost of some girl that shows lost travelers the way home, but might be decidedly less altruistic (and less human) going by different variations of the legend.

Awesome, right? The labyrinth was an excellent choice of location for a film like this, even though I ultimately feel that they didn't use it to its full potential (which, on the other hand, leaves room for other filmmakers - even Stanley Kubrick fell short on the hedge maze in The Shining). But one thing this movie emphasizes is how a mildly confusing maze in the daytime can turn into a hellish deathtrap at night when you're in a panic.

Everything in this movie was leading toward (at least in my mind) the revelation of some kind of demonic beast in that maze - which is what I was hoping for that I didn't get. I guess the whole thing about the girl ghost was a total red herring - which makes for great realism. How often does a team go into the woods to film some supernatural encounter and actually find what they're looking for? I mean, in the real world, not in the movies? And what really happened is actually fairly plausible (certainly not common, but within the realm of extreme possibility, and certainly easier to swallow than some kind of demonic minotaur).

Now, normally, I would take the (huge spoiler!) revelation of the mother as the killer rather than any paranormal entity with great disappointment (and I am still somewhat disappointed - come on, a demonic minotaur!), but something about the way this movie is presented made me realize something. We hear about terrible stories where people go psychotic and kill their families - and certainly scenarios like that are depicted often in horror movies. But we always see it with the Hollywood sheen. With the deceit of fantasy.

But this time, presented as a found footage film (even if nobody is actually fooled into thinking it's real anymore), it's like we're actually in the shoes of the victims, getting to experience what it's like to actually have this tragedy unfold in front of you, and not a dramatized narrative told after the fact. And, it drives home the fact of just how terrifying an experience like that can be. Running around in the dark. Screaming. Having the power shut off unexpectedly. People bleeding. Finding corpses in unexpected places. (Gosh, sounds like a typical slasher setup!). And not knowing what's going on - without certainty, you could even entertain the notion that the cause is supernatural in your panic.

And yeah, I guess that sounds pretty horrifying - but after all, isn't that what we watch horror movies for? I know I do. People might complain about how modern trends (especially the found footage format) are driving horror films to their obvious conclusion - indistinguishable simulations of snuff films. But again, what is horror for? It is a fantasy - not reality - but a simulation of horrible things that occur (and many things that don't occur, thankfully) in real life. It's removed from real life - though just enough - so that we can live vicariously through them. And if you don't understand the appeal of that, then you don't get horror. That's fine, but I shudder to think of the assumptions often made about people who do.

The only thing I have left to say about Atrocious is that it's left me feeling all the more hungry for a found footage film that really does use a monster - a real monster. Has there ever been one? Trollhunter, for example, was a good movie, but the trolls were more like scary animals than horror monsters. Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County comes close, but the aliens there are too calm, too intelligent - not beastly enough. Something like a Xenomorph, or The Thing, filmed from an iphone so that the seams are unnoticeable and it's all the more frightening would be good. Something like Carnosaur. That would be great. Or something paranormal, but with a very physical demonic manifestation. But not too human-like, as vampires and zombies are frequently depicted. Something with a tinge of the Lovecraftian perhaps. Hmm...


  1. The reveal at the end definitely disturbed me deeply. Although it certainly wasn't the only part that distubed me. I would have been disappointed but IMHO we have our cake and eat it too. My favorite scene is when they're running towards the screaming and the sister is like "what if it's not mom, what if it's not mom?" That's as chilling of a paranormal moment as anything in Blair Witch, even if we ultimately found out it was indeed the mom.

    If you're interested, there's plenty to explore in the serial killer vein of found footage. After giving Home Movie the old college try, I don't think I'll be delving any deeper into that world, so I can't exactly give informed reccomendations, but Home Movie is a must, and some others that exist are The Last Horror Movie and The Tapes. In the vein of disturbing the real, there are films like Zero Day, Undocumented and Redacted. Just saying!

    As far as monsters go... I love that you said that! I was just writing something like that last night while watching The Tunnel, about my frusturation over the lack of a good monster FF film. One film that sort of fits is Cloverfied, but Cloverfield suffers from a lot of the problems that The Tunnel does. Virtually no direct participation from the monster, and the film's all about running around instead of building atmosphere like a good found footage film does. A monster can be just as atmospheric and creepy as a ghost or an alien, I mean heck look at Alien.

    There's also Eyes in the Dark, which has monsters but the film totally sucks so don't bother. Evidence is another film, it got a decent review or two so it might be good and it most likely has a monster in it. Unfortunately it's a hard to find film, it's not readily available legally (I'm sure you can download it though.)

    I adore your ideas of a demon or Carnosaur found footage film, it'd be a dream come true for me. Luckily someday we may well get our wish, as found footage continues to expand.

  2. I never would've guessed there'd come a day when you had more horror recommendations for me than I had for you! :p Then again, my standards are pretty broad, I'll watch all kinds of horror, not just found footage.

  3. C'mon, we're talking about found footage, you didn't expect me to list a bunch of films? I haven't even seen half of those I named though, serial killers are too real for me. Plus I'm not net savvy elsewise I'd have seen tons of obscure FF films I'm dying to watch. I still really want to see The Dinosaur Project, even if it turns out to suck. I might need to get a region free DVD player someday... some supposedly A+ Japanese found footage films out there.

    To be fair, out of the 35 films I've watched this season only 6 have been found footage. But don't worry, I'll never catch up to you. I only started taking horror seriously last year, you've been doing it your whole life. Your standards are definitely more broad, I never got into horror until I found out there's more to it than Jason and torture porn. :p Your range also goes from at least the late 70s to today (and iirc you have 50s movies stashed away in your collection as well) whereas my threshold begins at about 1999. But that's sort of how I am with everything... e.g. I love 70s rock and 10s pop but I do not like 70s pop or 10s rock. Can't blame me for knowin' what me likes.

  4. Actually, not my whole life. Only the last ten years or so. Seeing 28 Days Later in the theater is what sparked my interest. Things developed from there.

    Some of the movies in that collection date all the way back to the 40s, 30s, and even the 20s! But I don't claim to have a really strong appreciation for them. They're curious to watch, and some of them *are* good, but generally really old films like that can be a chore to sit through. The 70s and 80s were great decades for film, though.

  5. That's pretty cool about 28 Days. What originally inspired you to go see it, a good trailer?

    Still, you had films like Alien and Legend going back to when you were a kid, right? I can't remember anything like that for me (maybe The Gate, did you ever see that?). When I was a teen I (often we) would occasionally check out films that looked good but these were barely mid-level films, Dark Water, The Hills Have Eyes, M Night's latter day filns... nothing special here.

    Penny Dreadful was probably the first horror film that meant anything to me. And then it wasn't until HorrorFest was dead and gone that I had any real incentive to broaden my horizons. Hard to remember exactly but I guess it must have been Paranormal Activity which was the first 5 star horror film I saw, and then Blair Witch last year which inspired my now fully burgeoned love of horror.

    You may have forgotten, but I really have to thank you for dragging me to see Paranormal Activity. The trailers... all it was, was reaction shots of the audience screaming. As a proud member of ad-savvy Generation Y, I was hard-wired to assume that these "audiences" were actors and the film must suck if they had to stoop so low. Thankfully this didn't turn out to be true, sometimes the cynic is wrong after all.

  6. lol, that's right! I forgot I had to drag you out to see the first Paranormal Activity! Crazy ironic, that. I'm really glad we saw it, obviously.

    Yeah, there were movies in my childhood like Alien (and Aliens), and of course that time I watched The Exorcist - but I didn't get *serious* about horror until after 28 Days Later.

    How that happened, it was actually second run, we went to that second run theater that (I don't think) is around anymore, and they were screening the alternate endings. My girlfriend at the time (in high school, you remember her) wanted to go see a movie, so we checked the listings, and 28 Days Later was the one that looked most interesting to me. She actually remarked to me that she didn't realize I liked films like that, and I'll admit, I was partly thinking of the whole, 'go see a scary movie with your girlfriend, and she'll get scared and start pawing all over you', lol. That wasn't my whole motivation, but it was probably in the back of my mind. Anyway, we went and saw the movie, and I just loved it. It also introduced me to Godspeed You Black Emperor and started my love of post-rock, too.

    After that, it was slow, but I gradually became obsessed with horror. For a couple periods, I said to myself, if I'm a horror fan, I should go see horror movies when they come out in the theater, and I was shocked to learn that so many horror movies were being made, that you could practically go to the theater every other week of the year and see a new horror film! Not every one of them is good, granted.

    But it was early January, on winter break from college, that I went and saw Hostel, and Wolf Creek. And there were some others throughout the year. And that's around the time we went to see The Hills Have Eyes. Plus I started watching classic horror movies at home - *especially* during Halloween season.

    And the rest is history.