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Thursday, 2 April 2015

DVD Of The Week: The Atticus Institute (2015)


The Atticus Institute is a mock documentary about a 1970s Pennsylvania research lab investigating fringe science, paranormal abilities, telekinesis etc.

Although they have a modicum of success there is nothing quantifiable that would stand up as solid proof of these supernatural abilities actually existing until a woman called Judith Winstead (Rya Kihlstedt) is introduced to the scientists by her sister (who promptly abandons her, disconnects her phone and severs all ties with her sibling).

Judith is odd, but right off the bat demonstrates to the institute's head Dr Henry West (William Mapother) a range of unnerving abilities.

Eventually, as her abilities escalate, it's clear that Judith's powers are beyond the control of the institute and one of their number calls in the military and the US Government, who take over the experiments and push Judith even harder.

The more extreme the tests get, the more extreme the results are.

And then when the government realises they are dealing with a true case of possession they decide the best thing to do is attempt to "weaponise" the demonic entity.

Naturally, that all goes according to plan...


This isn't a found footage film, it sidesteps that damnable fad by being essentially a montage of short clips, stills and interviews - using faux footage and snapshots from the 1970s, intercut with present-day talking head interviews with those connected to the events.

The Atticus Institue is a little gem, sharing some thematic - and stylistic - elements with the BBC's superb Ghostwatch from 1992, that writer/director Chris Sparling has crafted so that (in his own words from the 'behind-the-scenes' extras) people switching channels on TV and finding the film already playing will think it a genuine documentary.

The only thing that slightly undercuts that ambition is the use of, to me anyway, recognisable faces like Lost's William Mapother, Harry Groener, and John Rubinstein.

Given the verisimilitude that Sparling has created for this film, unsurprisingly - but bravely - The Atticus Institute doesn't offer any clear answers, rather it poses a lot of questions about what we are watching and who is really controlling the unfolding events.

It is also paced like a documentary - even though it opens with a tantalising tease of the horrors to come - and so demands attention from its audience.

Although there are a handful of jump scares, the film works best on a psychological level, challenging the viewer to think about how governments would react if possession - and other such horror movie fodder - were genuine.

A unique, powerful, clever and inventive horror film, if you give it the respect it deserves The Atticus Institute will worm its way into your brain and hang around for a good while.

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