I understand that starting off 2015 with a movie called Atrocity sounds like betting on a one-legged greyhound, but some of my favorite indie horror flicks have the most bizarre names imaginable, so I gambled my Sunday night on Jeff S. Chimenti’s low-budget slasher. Then I remembered my last few casino trips and the continual bad-luck-streak hovering over my head – something this hormonal slasher wasn’t going to turn around.
Atrocity is built just as you’d expect any January-released-found-footage-horror-movie to be, marred by grainy imagery and a curiously inept script that banks on law enforcement officers who exhibit the mental capacity of a soggy potato. If any of you aspiring murderers out there are looking for a quick tutorial, Chimeneti will surely teach you an important first lesson – the smaller the town, the more useless police officers are. Too bad such bumbling hilarity makes for an absolutely brainless cinematic watch.
The horrid ordeal starts when Zack (Or Zach. I don’t know, I can’t find a damn character list anywhere) finds out his girlfriend is a cheater and demands payback. Knowing she’s been shacking up with a dude named Carl, Zack wrangles together his five best friends and explains that they’re going to bring the show Cheaters to life by busting in on the “dumb slut” while she’s “boning” Carl.
Pumped full of liquor and raging hormones, the kids pile in only to find Zack’s girlfriend Brittany fabricated the cheating rumor herself because she thought Zack was cheating on HER, “proven” when Zack hooks up with Brittany’s best friend who is in on the deception. Yet, Zack only did it because he thought Brittany was cheating first, and then it turns out Carl is her stepfather and Zack is gay – sorry, all you need to know is the whole drunken confrontation of screaming pubescent morons ends in a bloody mess, and we then watch an investigator reveal the remaining video evidence in little, bite-sized pieces.
OK, here’s where I say Chimenti presents an interesting spin on the technological horror genre that’s been developing with movies like Smiley, The Den, and Open Windows – promising a webisode-like experience – yet the climax of the film plays out like the countless generic found footage scenes we’ve experienced ad nauseam. There’s a short time where you believe Atrocity will foolishly hide the actual “atrocity” hinted at, switching gears once tension reaches a volcanic high, but Chimenti knows the goods have to be delivered eventually – it’s just a shame “eventually” translates to “after being put to sleep.”
A group of first-time actors are paraded out as alcohol-drenched idiots who commit every abhorrent mistake that parents are afraid their children will make – driving drunk, blowing coke, handling weaponry, spouting misogynistic hatred, abusing women, committing murder – because that’s what all high schoolers do, right? These bros are a hard bunch to accept, too young to fault but too old to find comical, and their female counterparts don’t offer any more relief than being vindictive, conniving, immature children who’d backstab anyone given the chance – again, just like all high school girls, right? Atrocity is built on nasty, hateful stereotypes without any ounce of exploitative satire, which does nothing but envision an ugly world for even uglier characters to inhabit – a weightless reality that’s weakly punctuated by a cop’s “harrowing” final words.
While there’s bloodshed brought upon by replica fantasy weapons, and one quick explosion of aggression, there isn’t a lick of horror to be found – or a plot worth comprehending. Everything makes perfect sense as long as you’re willing to accept the police glossing over missing footage, admitting time and time again they were outsmarted by teenagers who own iMovie, but even that comprehension stretches insultingly thin.
Right, let’s actually buy into the fact that these kids aren’t real criminals, and they’re new to killing and cover-ups – even THEN, you’re still leaving the camera rolling while discussing HOW YOU’RE GOING TO LIE ABOUT EVERYTHING? No. Save your breath. I get how everything ties in. One kid is a sick freak hiding a dark, monstrous secret, but EVEN AT THAT – I can’t. I can’t even. Atrocity is pulled thinner than Kate Moss on the night of a major runway show, offering about the same amount of meat worth biting into (metaphorically – not like I want to actually bite into Kate Moss).
Atrocity tries its damnedest to appease horror fans, making Freddy Krueger references while entering lands of real-life LARPing (in a way), but you couldn’t pay me a billion dollars to hang out with these future trainwrecks for a single minute more. There’s little excitement generated when the children bust into Brittany’s room guns blazing, but once the whole “who’s f#cking who!” debacle turns into lame field interviews and an infuriatingly braindead case, the stop button will become VERY tempting. Atrocity boasts bad acting, worse scripting, and an unnecessary final act that ruins any senses of unsettling, morbid, or curious human depravity – like a magician ripping away a tablecloth only to unsuccessfully pull every last dish along with it. Crash! Bang! Boom! What a mess.
In an attempt to rewrite found footage horror, Atrocity's violent Cheaters ripoff barely musters a single moment that lives up to such a gruesome title.