The Quintanilla family moved to their old farmhouse in Sitges, Spain. The family’s older children, Cristian and July, spent five days videotaping everything they did, because apparently there was some sort of urban legend in the area they wanted to investigate. Then the family was found dead, and the video recordings were edited into a found-footage movie.

Atrocious is so desperate to be reminiscent of the Paranormal Activity series it’s not even funny. The earnestness, the forced ambiguity, the earnest attempts to convince the audience that this actually happened!, “hunt-the-pixel” scenes in which you’re supposed to locate the weird shit that’s going on, the too-obvious hook for a sequel…it’s even got the captions with the dates printed in the Courier New font, for crying out loud.

Unfortunately what Atrocious lacks is heart and soul of any sort. It reeks of calculation. It uses the tropes and elements of the found-footage format not because they’re integral to the story but because that’s the sort of thing you’re supposed to put in found-footage films. The contempt that writer/director Fernando Barreda Luna have for their story becomes obvious when it’s revealed that the “urban legend” that Cristian and July spend most of the goddamn movie investigating has absolutely nothing to do with the weird shit going on.

And it’s not even like Barreda Luna uses the found-footage format all that effectively. The “hunt-the-pixel” sequences are particularly maddening because the weird shit that the kids are looking at and narrating to the audience can’t even be seen by it. (I watched the “there’s someone in the woods with his back turned away from us” scene three or four times, and still couldn’t figure out what the hell the kids were supposed to be seeing.) And let’s not forget the padding scenes that don’t contribute anything to the story whatsoever–and which would be edited out if anyone were using the footage to create a real documentary.

I’m giving this film one star because I liked the cast, there were a few scenes that were almost effective, and I was genuinely sad when the dog bit it. But I’m probably giving it too much credit. It’s little more than a turkey that can’t be bothered to live up to its title. Atrocious? If it actually was, it might stand a chance of being slightly entertaining. Instead it’s just another bland example of why production companies need to stop jumping on the found-footage bandwagon.

My rating: 2 out of 10.

73 minutes; in Spanish, with English subtitles. Directed by Fernando Barreda Luna. Starring Cristian Valencia, Clara Moraleda, Chus Periero, Sergi Martin.

ATROCIOUS poster

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