The Atticus Institute (Review)

One of the better found-footage efforts.

by Nav Qateel

During the mid 1970s, a small Pennsylvanian psychology lab began to test subjects for PSI and ESP abilities. During these tests, one woman started to show signs of demonic possession that were off-the-charts. Her power was so great, and the small lab ill-equipped to deal with someone with power of such magnitude, the military was called in to assist. It wasn't long before the military completely took over the lab, and used the possessed woman for their own agenda.

The Atticus Institute is a found-footage effort in the guise of a documentary dating back to 1976. It's set up so that we're seeing the old footage of the experiments being carried out and the scientists as they were back in that period. This is then mixed with present-day footage, showing the surviving scientists as they are today.

The Atticus Institute
Written & Directed by Chris Sparling
Cast Rya Kihlstedt, William Mapother, John Rubinstein
Release Date 20 January 2015
Nav's Grade: B

Writer-director Sparling puts this blend of 70s and present-day to good use with the help of editor Sam Bauer, who most will know for his editorial work on the magnificent Donnie Darko. It's thanks to Bauer's cuts that The Atticus Institute always retains a sense of realism, rarely seen on films of this scope and budget. As for the performances; even though I'm familiar with almost every actor in The Atticus Institute, they were each so utterly convincing, I found myself believing in their characters during the runtime of the film. Chris Sparling also chose his characters wisely, so that the actor's change in appearance during the 40 year gap was most believable. For a film with such a clearly meagre budget, it didn't prevent the actors from bringing their A game and putting their heart and souls into every frame. This comes through loud and clear, keeping The Atticus Institute well above the form of lesser films in the found-footage category. One criticism I have is with the pacing and the fact it may be too slow for some. I found it suited this style of film well enough, and I also thought it aided in keeping things realistic. However, not everyone will appreciate the care and thought Sparling put into getting the film paced just so.

Chris Sparling came bursting onto the scene in 2010 when he penned the acclaimed Ryan Reynolds' starrer Buried. This was followed up in 2012 by writing the less than successful horror ATM. (Coincidentally, the stunning Alice Eve's mother plays Susan Gorman here, and ATM was one of Alice Eve's first movies.) The filmmaker has bounced back by writing and directing his first solo movie The Atticus Institute, a film that proves Chris Sparling is a force to be reckoned with. And if this is only a taste of things to come, Sparling is someone worth watching ... very closely.


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