The Atticus Institute (Blu-ray Review)

Atticus InstituteIn 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 Atticus Institute


The Atticus Institute is the latest in fond footage “possession” films to arrive on Blu-ray and DVD. The film takes place in the 1970’s and follows Dr. Henry West (William Mapother), who started The Atticus Institute in order to study the manifestations of psychokinesis, clairvoyance, and other (dis)orders in human subjects. After hitting roadblock after roadblock in his studies a woman named Judith Winstead (Rya Khilstedt) arrives at the center for testing. Dr. West and his crew are astonished at the notion that she may be the person that they have been waiting for all this time.

The film plays the found footage angle straight mixing in “footage” that’s supposedly from the 70’s and intercutting it with interviews filmed in the presented day featuring the same folks in the videos we are watching. It goes back and forth in that format and it’s fine. I did like how the film initially sets up the notion of parapsychology and the many frauds that come out of studying that field and I really enjoyed the demonic possession factor thrown in there for good measure. What I liked even more was the U.S. government getting involved in the studies and documenting the ongoing events with Judith.

Having the U.S. government angle was neat as it broadened the scope of what we were watching. I don’t think any other organization outside of the church even gets involved in matters of so-called possessions, so to see that in a film was quite refreshing and very sinister. There’s language throughout the film involving the “harnessing” of these “powers” and using them for the benefit of the country that was quite clever and lifted the film a tad higher than your average run-of-the-mill demonic possession flick.

As far as a demon possession film The Atticus Institute works rather well and the segments featuring the “older” version of their younger selves who witnessed the event at the research center gave everything a nice touch, because the film is played straight. You may be asking yourself if the film is scary at all. I would have to say that it could be. The sound design is startling at times and the scenes of Judith speaking in tongues are somewhat nerve-racking. On a technical level, and obviously filmed on a low budget, The Atticus Institute gets every dollar and cent spent up on that screen. I would say that the film is worthy of a theatrical release but can understand why it’s being released on Blu-ray, DVD, and various other formats.

I’ve lost count as to how many of these type of films have come out in the past five years but can honestly and truthfully say that The Atticus Institute is one of the better ones to do so in recent memory. I do want to say that the one drawback, if you can even call it a drawback, is that the film runs about 83 minutes long, with credits. It’s a very short endeavor but it’s a tight enough film that most shouldn’t be bothered by that detail all that much. The Atticus Institute on Blu-ray is priced to sell and is recommended.


The Atticus Institute


Encoding: AVC MPEG-4

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail: Most of the film is made to look like it was shot on equipment from the 70’s and is intermixed with footage shot in the present day along with photo stills incorporated into the movie. The primary stuff that looks like it’s from the 70’s looks a bit beat up (artificially of course) and the material in the presented day is rich and vibrant. There will be various shifts in quality as you watch the film.

Depth: The overall image does appear a bit flat but that’s the obvious aesthetic the filmmakers were going for. The interview footage is the opposite of flat, though.

Black Levels: Black levels are surprisingly crush-free for the most part unless the scene or distorted footage calls for it.

Color Reproduction: The color palette is a bit washed down and muted during the archive footage but rich and bold in the interview segments.

Flesh Tones: Flesh tones appear as natural as can be in the original footage segments and nice and healthy during the interviews.

Noise/Artifacts: The archival footage is loaded up with artificial noise, debris, softness, etc., but it’s inherent to the source material. The current montage of stills and interviews do not have anomalies and look pristine in high definition.


The Atticus Institute


Audio Format(s): English Dolby TrueHD 5.1

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics: For a film that takes place primarily in a secret lab for most of its running time the makers of the film have injected some series sonic overload into The Atticus Institute. This is a reference audio track that will leave you unsettled.

Low Frequency Extension: Text

Surround Sound Presentation: The surround sound channels are incredible. There’s one scene at the halfway point where a door creaks open off-screen and I swear I thought it was one of my doors creaking in my house. The sound was unbelievably discrete and came from the right rear channel – as if the sound engineers isolated that sound bit intentionally. Whatever it was it was damn spooky.

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue levels are scarily clean and crisp and you will be able to hear and understand everything being spoken in English and/or Latin, and demonspeak, etc.


The Atticus Institute


The Atticus Institute has only two special features included on the Blu-ray. We get some deleted scenes and an interview featurette with cast and crew. The interviews are pretty solid and entertaining.

  • The Making of The Atticus Institute (HD) – These interviews are with the primary actors and one of the producers and the writer-director. Everyone seemed to have had a great time making the film and it shows.
  • Deleted Scenes (HD) – Here are some deleted scenes that did not make it to the final cut. They are presented in high definition.


The Atticus Institute


The Atticus Institute is by far one of the better-found footage possession films to have come out of Hollywood and the independent film circuit in quite sometime. The Blu-ray, for all intents and purposes, is above average in terms of presentation, with only a couple of hiccups in the extras department – mainly the overall lack of in-depth extras. The Atticus Institute is definitely worth watching but make sure you leave a light on.



The Atticus Institute Released on Blu-ray January 20th.




The Atticus Institute


Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

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