DVD Review: Atrocious

Directed By Fernando Barreda Luna
Starring Cristian Valencia, Clara Moraleda, Chus Pereiro and Sergi Martin



A lazier reviewer might be tempted to point out how aptly Atrocious fits its name. The thing is, while not a particularly good film, Spain’s latest stab at found footage horror isn’t so much an offensively bad movie as a simply dull and lethargically made one which copiously borrows from other films in the sub-genre without ever approximating the all-important scares and atmosphere.

Setting up a premise that sows potential for creepy frights, Atrocious purports to be footage of the last days of the Quintanilla family, who were found dead under mysterious circumstances. As the tapes unfold, siblings Christian and July Quintanilla are dragged off to a remote villa in the country for a getaway with their parents. The two teens, who run an amateur video blog centred around their exploits investigating urban legends, plan to make the most of their trip by seeking the truth behind a local legend. Supposedly a young woman named Melinda disappeared in the Garraf Woods in 1940, never to be seen alive again. Rumours of her fate are abundant, but legend has it that if you get lost in the woods at dusk, the ghost of Melinda will appear.
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While Atrocious nails its set-up just fine, dropping us in with a couple of likeable, believable teens, it soon suffers from a meandering pace, with scares that’re too few and far between and which prove damp squibs when they arrive. Found footage movies work primarily because they foster a sense of realism and use the limitations of handheld cameras and grainy footage to embrace the ‘less is more’ approach to horror, chilling us with creepy sound design and showing us the most fleeting glimpses of otherworldly terrors to send our imaginations into overdrive, resulting in infinitely more fright than just being shown some hokey CG or a nutjob with a knife.

Atrocious sadly manages to fumble the execution on almost every front. Believability largely gets tossed out the window when Fernando Barreda Luna realises that he needs to start making weird things happen and characters do baffling things to engineer a set-up (why would anyone toss their beloved, well-behaving dog outside for the night to wander alone around an unfamiliar, creepy woodland area, then act surprised that it goes missing?). The attempts at suggestive scares fall flat because Luna never even hints at what we should be afraid of for many scares; Christian claims he hears something strange in the night, but all we hear is the dog barking, July sees something in the woods, but the camera is too dark and murky to see anything. Instead we’re expected to be scared by their reactions to things that we don’t see or hear, and simply having people scream and run around dark places is about as effective as an especially terrible episode of Most Haunted.
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Between that, there are seemingly endless shots of the characters wandering around the villa’s nearby woodland labyrinth, seeing and saying nothing. The location is a great choice for a Blair Witch-style movie, but all that needless, dull padding constitutes about a quarter of the runtime and ensures that the pacing grinds to a crawl when it should be creating an escalating atmosphere of tension and dread. Luna never finds a happy medium between showing nothing and telling everything, and by the time of the final act, he ditches his “show nothing” approach and opts for a clumsy, overblown and underwhelming ending which follows up a news report finale with an “Oh, and we found some more alternate footage which explains it all!” ending. There’s potential for a satisfying finale – there’s subtle hints sprinkled throughout to pave the way for the final reveal – but the awkward way in which its presented, coupled with the unengaging build-up means that the intended creepy coda falls entirely flat and fails to tap into the same feeling of urgent terror and dread that the best found footage movies have.

It all amounts to a movie that’s filled with dull, repetitive padding, sloppy storytelling and poorly engineered frights. It’s far from the worst Blair Witch knock-off around, but it also fails to deliver the creeping chills and primal terror that we’ve come to expect from the best of the found footage genre, leaving Atrocious a wildly flawed and highly disappointing entry.





The DVD hits UK shelves courtesy of Revolver Home Entertainment. Naturally, this is a fount footage movie shot on handheld camcorders, so it’s not going to look and sound amazing, but the disc delivers the film exactly as intended, with a choice of 5.1 or 2.0 audio tracks and, naturally, English subtitles for the Spanish audio.

The only extra is a 14 minute ‘Making Of’ featurette which does its job well, even if it’s not the most substantial documentary.

The Film:

The DVD:




Atrocious is out on DVD in the UK now.
Click here to order the DVD from Amazon.co.uk.

  • Leila France

    bien le film !