"The Atticus Institute" is a stereotypical documentary styled, possession film that explores the scientific studies around telekinesis experiments in relation to demonic possession that took place in the late 70's. Well the telekinesis studies were explored back then, not sure if the dogmatic spiritual concept of demonic influence was ever entertained in these studies. The film is directed by Chris Sparling and stars Rya Kihlstedt, William Mapother, Sharon Maughan, John Rubinstein, Harry Groener, and Anne Betancourt.
Synopsis: 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.
The story is one that plays on the conspiracy lore revolving around the scientific experiments done for the military in the late 70's. "The Atticus Institute" is framed in a documentary style with faux footage from the actual case involving the study of telekinesis and especially the study of one extraordinary subject- Judy Winstead. The film does pull in the whole concept that these abilities are "gifts" from entities that possess the person with supernatural abilities. Something I was also told growing up, by the people in my Baptist Church and the Christian people in my family. It is a pretty cool concept to explore in a horror film. This time around though-the subject is sort of a missed opportunity.
"The Atticus Institute" stays pretty sterile, and devoid of emotion as it plays out all too familiar themes and heavy stylized formats which permeate the possession subgenre, and the "mockumentary/found footage" subgenre as well. Sparling doesn't actually fail at presenting the story, it is a fascinating tale and Judy Winstead offers a truly creepy character, but sadly everything is cookie cutter, done-to-death gimmicks, and ideas. There isn't really a lot of creativity in "The Atticus Institute" beyond the initial concept of the military trying to control a demonically possessed person for some twisted warmongering ideology.
The special effects are expected displays of visual parlor tricks mixed with played-out demonic possession material seen time and time again in these films. There are some moments that get creepy, and gory. Some of the early test scenes with Judy jumping through the scientific hoops are nicely done. Unfortunately all the aspects of this are so obvious and expected that there is no real suspense or thrill. It all really has the same quality of effect on the movie goer as those television paranormal documentary series were you know exactly what is about to happen in the recreation because they all but told you so just moments before. "The Atticus Institute" doesn't really give itself space to build up for some much needed scary moments-and there was plenty of opportunity for some real thrills.
Overall "The Atticus Institute" is one of those mediocre horror films that you can coast your way through if you are just determined to watch it. There isn't any real connection given between the character development and the audience. The horror and chilling elements aren't really scary or affective unless you are 12 and really creeped out by demons and paranormal stuff. The one real show of awesomeness is Judy Wintead, and the way the actress-Rya Kilhstedt portrays her. Unfortunately the framing device and story arc is so done to death, that it becomes a bit boring and you find yourself asking "why am I watching this?".