From the producers of the Conjuring and Annabelle, comes a new addition to the recent fad of possession movies. Scientists involved in a 1970’s research project looking into ESP and related phenomena stumble across Judith (played by Rya Kihlstedt, of Deep Impact fame) whose abilities far transcend anything they have encountered before. They gleefully set about testing her and documenting the results, but it doesn’t take long for them to realise that rather than someone displaying impressive feats of telekinesis, what they are really dealing with is a severe case of demonic possession. The entity makes its presence known in a variety of subtle and non-subtle ways and soon, the military come knocking in an attempt to harness and eventually weaponise the demon’s power. Predictably, that’s when things get really out of hand. Sometimes, guns and bullets just aren’t enough.
Written and directed by Chris Sparling, writer of the 2010 underground (sorry, couldn’t resist) smash hit Buried, the Atticus Institute unfolds through a series of interviews-to-camera interspersed with segments of laboratory footage, giving it a gritty and decidedly intense feel. The result is terrifyingly realistic, and Sparling works the tension impeccably as it builds to an horrific climax. Poor Judith spends the vast majority of the film strapped in a chair squirming around and speaking in tongues, whilst being shouted at and receiving electric shock therapy. By the end you actually end up feeling a bit sorry for her/it and begin questioning who the victim really is in all this. As any news report will tell you, this is kind of unrestrained overkill is typically what happens when western governments come up against an enemy they don’t fully understand.
Though this is one of the few possession movies that doesn’t claim to be based on a actual events, I have a sneaking suspicion the genesis of the story is based on the US government’s Stargate Project and it’s derivatives, operations set up in the 1970’s to investigate psychic phenomena in response to muted Soviet projects of a similar ilk. One of the main focuses of the Stargate Project was remote viewing, something of obvious military significance, which is alluded to several times in the Atticus Institute. Though the Stargate Project was (allegedly) closed down in 1995 amid claims that it wasn’t effective enough to make it viable, the bulk of the data that was collected has never been made available to the public, so who knows what evidence might be gathering dust in a vault somewhere?
The original version of this review is featured in the Morpheus Tales supplement, available HERE: