THE ATTICUS INSTITUTE (2015)
Written and directed by Chris Sparling
“The only case of demonic possession recognised by the U.S. Government” is presented in this faux documentary, The Atticus Institute.
Set in present day, the mockumentary kicks off with interviews with the relatives of and doctors involved with the now defunct Atticus Institute, a research and investigation facility which in the 1970’s studied humans with supernatural abilities such as telekinesis and mind reading. Headed by Dr West (William Mapother), the team of doctors think they have a breakthrough when a man in their facility shows signs of telekinetic powers, but their hopes and excitement is destroyed when it turns out to be a hoax. When new test subject, Judith Winstead, is committed to the facility by her sister, the doctors think that she may have some ability but nothing extraordinary, just similar to talents which their other subjects display. Their initial assumptions, however, are shattered when Judith displays frighteningly accurate results and powerful abilities which can move more than a toy car a few centimetres.
Utilising both footage and still photography from an amazingly realistic looking 1976, the documentary features flashbacks to the research and experiments of those involved prior and during Judith’s arrival at the Atticus Institute. The blend of modern day interviews, old footage and stills is a tremendous way of telling a very unnerving story as displayed in this movie and mimics real-life documentaries extremely well. This is the first time I’ve seen a film in this particular format and it adds a tremendous amount of style and substance to the movie to further fuel the tale as being real.
Lost star William Mapother stars as Dr. Henry West, the head researcher of the Atticus Institute facility. As described by his children and wife, Dr West is a man who loves his family but has a real passion for his work, maybe to the point where his work is more important. His dreams and aspirations of discovering and proving the abilities of exceptional people become his worst nightmare when he meets Judith and discovers her full capabilities. Home Alone 3 and Dexter actress Rya Kihlstedt is captivating as Judith Winstead. She potrays Judith as this vulnerable woman who, through no fault of her own, has become the host of a powerful entity. Judith says very little in the movie but the body language and movement says it all and with just a look, you can feel the evil dwelling inside of her, sending a shiver down your spine.
Unlike a lot of modern day possession movies, The Atticus Institute is a refreshing, original take on the genre that relies on quality storytelling and engaging performances than unrealistic, over-the-top CGI and J-Horror inspired spirits. Rya’s performance as Judith is realistic so you can believe and sympathise with the character and her predicament as well as empathise with Dr West’s concern and fear that whatever is inside Judith is more than anyone can handle, even the military.
Written and directed by Chris Sparling, the writer of Buried and ATM, this is one of the finest possession movies I’ve seen. A mesmerising, intense watch.