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Haunted Sideshow

Dustin Putman

The Atticus Institute  (2015)

Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Film
2 Stars
(Release Date: January 20, 2015) – "The Atticus Institute" gets points for moving away from the standard found-footage format in lieu of a slickly edited "Dateline"-style faux documentary, but the novelty of this stylistic approach cannot vanquish the nagging sense that this particular story of the supernatural brings nothing new to the fold. The title parapsychology lab is founded in the 1970s by Dr. Henry West (William Mapother), a scientist dedicated to the investigation of exceptional phenomena. He and his researchers are thrown for a loop when they bring in Judith Winstead (Rya Kihlstedt) as their latest test subject. Her powers of clairvoyance and telekinesis are stronger than any West has ever seen, but as he and his team continue to work with her it becomes readily apparent that she is not only dangerous, but quite possibly under the control of a demonic entity.

Written and directed by Chris Sparling (who previously penned the 2012 thriller "ATM"), "The Atticus Institute" is well constructed, an assemblage of present-day talking heads with vintage photographs and archival footage taken by the Atticus Institute prior to the U.S. government shutting them down in 1976. With the exception of a few affected supporting performances that fleetingly break the spell, the film mostly convinces as a particularly eerie, sensationalistic doc, but then grows repetitive by the second act as the narrative drags toward a disposable conclusion. The film is admirably constructed, but the derivative script makes it difficult for one to become too enthused by the stock goings-on.

Read Dustin's Theatrical Review

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

Despite being purportedly compiled from a wide variety of film and video stocks, all of intentionally differing quality, the 1080p transfer of "The Atticus Institute" looks great. The digitally shot present-day interview segments are beautifully bright, detailed and unblemished, while the older '70s-era footage, much of it supposedly shot by the Institute for research purposes, is believably grainy, gritty and marked up—but still undeniably boosted by the high-definition format. The music score and intermittent soundtrack jolts are where the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio excels, while dialogue is clearly defined.

Blu-ray Features
  • "The Making of The Atticus Institute" Featurette (9:04, HD)
  • Deleted Scenes (7:19, HD)
Bottom Line
"The Atticus Institute" will be of interest to fans of supernatural horror and found-footage supporters looking for a slight twist in the format, but they should temper expectations. Though competently directed, the film doesn't cover very much fresh territory and smells of familiarity. Anchor Bay's Blu-ray release impresses with its high-def video and audio, less so with its slim special features package. Worthy of a rental from its target audience.

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© 2015 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman


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