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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.Written by
I rarely, if ever, enjoy the 'found footage/ faux documentary' genre of films. The majority of these films feel contrite and fake at best. Some filmmakers have based their entire career on these types of movies, most notably the 'Paranormal Activity' or 'REC' series. The Atticus Institute is perhaps the same type of film, but it does have a remarkably intriguing plot that separates it from the majority of these films.
The film deals with a group of scientists running a small psychology laboratory during the 1970's. The focus of their research is on those individuals who have extra-behavioural abilities; ESP, psychokinetic powers, and things that are considered mostly in the realm of parapsychology. The lead scientist, Dr. West, and his group of researchers run an underfunded observation department, focusing on the documentation of paranormal abilities. After years of research, the institutes credibility falls into jeopardy, and what little funding there was, begins to dissipate. Enter Judith Winstead (arguably the main character of the film and very well portrayed by Rya Kihlstedt) is a withdrawn and a somewhat vacant woman capable of truly remarkable things. The story unfolds as a series of interviews between various individuals of interest in centered around Judith's life and her time at the Atticus Institute.
What makes this movie more interesting that most is an excellent blend of plot devices. They vary from act to act, and allow the viewer to delve deeper into this unusual story. There are a range of ideas that the film covers, outside of just the strange tests they put before her, her exceptional 'Godlike' performance level. As the movie progresses, the scientist find the source of Judith's remarkable power, and it becomes a slightly different kind of film. I really enjoyed this subtle switch in direction, and was surprised at how well they were blended together. It's a slight shift in theme, but what begins as a research into the abnormal, becomes a movie about possession and the occult. I really enjoyed that, and it's done in such a way that it doesn't seem so ridiculous. By the second act the military becomes involved, although it seems like such a preposterous plot twist, it is so smoothly done that it feels like a natural progression of the documentary.
There are some rather silly effects throughout the film, a couple of rather predictable jump scares, and several other things that perhaps with a little more effort from post-production could have been avoided. Most notably for me was the clarity of the video footage from the 70's, and how it doesn't quite fit with the technology of the time. The digital post production to age the film was a bit too clean for me, but it works. The focus of the 'declassified files' was far too quick to skim over for the viewer, within the allotted time given to read them. However, I actually paused the film at these moments and thought they were fairly interesting, and they lend a lot into the story line. They certainly contain key information never discussed by any of the interviewees, and they are worth checking out.
Overall, this film was much better than I anticipated, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys the thriller/ horror genre. It is an interesting interpretation of what might happen if the Military were to investigate a confirmed case of possession.
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