In the fall of 1976, a small psychology lab in Pennsylvania became the unwitting home to the only government-confirmed case of possession. The U.S. military assumed control of the lab under orders of national security and, soon after, implemented measures aimed at weaponizing the entity. The details of the inexplicable events that occurred are being made public after remaining classified for nearly forty years.
Genre : Horror
Country : USA
Wiliam Mapother : Dr. Henry West
Rhya Kihlstedt : Judith Winstead
Julian Acosta : Young Robert Koep
“We don’t control this, it’s not just us who will be at risk.
And if you do control it, then who will be at risk?”
You like to watch documentaries about the supernatural, alien sightings or other unexplained phenomena on “National Geographic”, then you should see “The Atticus institute” since this is a documentary-style film about a scientific study in an institute led by Dr. Henry West. The research is focused on paranormal activities such as ESP and psychokinesis (using the power of the mind to cause the movement of matter at a distance). The film is described as a mockumentary found footage horror. It’s certainly not based on true facts, but I wouldn’t look at it as a parody or satire, because even though it looks like a documentary, it’s reasonably successful. Fortunately, the found footage was reduced to the minimum, and the whole movie is a collage of interviews, eyewitness reports and video recordings (both fixed cameras that capture the experiment and in a limited extent some home recording).
You can compare it a bit with “The Quiet Ones“. Only the latter is not really a documentary that’s made of videotaping, but just an ordinary horror film. Both films are set in the 70’s which can be clearly seen in the decoration and the overall appearance. Especially the VHS look is typical for that period. But both films excel especially in the total absence of tension or frightening scenes. Or it should be you are easily scared and shake like a leaf after witnessing a curving card, a tray opening suddenly or a chair sliding away by itself. Anyway, it looks less creepy than implied by the testimonies at the beginning.
The eventual story isn’t that original. Today you’re overwhelmed with horror films with possession as a central theme. The starting point is an institution in Pennsylvania where Dr. West (William Mapother) and his team of researchers test certain persons to investigate and capture psychokinetic activity. Unfortunately they also get fraudsters between the study objects until Judith Winstead shows up (Rya Kihlstedt). At first sight it seems like an ordinary woman who probably needs some psychological counseling, but gradually they come to the conclusion that she has inexplicable powers. When the official authorities are called for help after they’ve noticed that the phenomenal forces aren’t controllable, those authorities see an opportunity to use this to their advantage and they try to isolate the supernatural power that resides in Judith.
In addition to the total lack of tension, there’s also the fact that the surprise effect is totally negated by the testimonies. One can already predict which direction it’s going and what the outcome will be. Even the warning to the filmmakers and those who watch this film is a little bland. Isn’t this already been used somewhere else ? Saying that by watching a video or movie, this will invite evil ? The moments we witness the demonic events, are quite sparse. But those sporadic moments are still thrilling in a certain way. I’m not really a fan of this type movies (I mean the documentary part) and yet I was fascinated by it. There wasn’t a single moment that I felt the urge to turn off the film. Rya Kihlstedt doesn’t look as if she is possessed and eventually she suffers more because of the human intervention than by the demonic force that has her in its grip. Don’t expect a woman who’s spitting green slime, swearing, screaming,spouting profane language all the time and staring with a devilish glance. But I thought that Kihlstedt was convincing enough and acted with the right look and feel : that of a desperate woman who’s physically and psychologically tormented. The only weak point and still farfetched item was the final plan of the US government. But to know what their intentions were, you have go and see the film for yourself. Although this topic is widely used, Chris Sparling manages nevertheless to turn it into an original movie.