Atroz is an extremely difficult watch, but also a rewarding one; as brilliant as it is disturbing.
Atroz (Atrocious), one of the latest films to be distributed by the wonderfully twisted minds at Unearthed Films, is receiving a lot of buzz for its intensely graphic scenes and highly disturbing content. Already one of the most notorious horror films of 2016, Lex Ortega’s Atroz was produced by legendary and controversial filmmaker Ruggero Deodato (Cannibal Holocaust, House on the Edge of the Park, Jungle Holocaust) and is being marketed as the most graphic and gory film ever made in Mexico.
There are two types of horror fans. You’re either someone who gets excited by a description like that or immediately turned off. If you’re in the latter camp, I’m not going to try to sell you on the merits of this film here. This is absolutely a difficult watch and will likely prove to be too much for the average viewer. However, if you’re like me and fall into that first group, this is one film that does not disappoint.
When a movie receives comparisons to A Serbian Film, you know you’re in for a hell of a ride.
Atroz tells the story of two despicable serial killers. After being arrested during a fatal traffic accident, a hardened detective confiscates a video tape from their car that contains footage of the brutal murders committed by the two. But what’s even more horrific than the crimes themselves is what led to them, and Atroz explores with unflinching brutality the nature of how human monsters are created.
The film is exceptionally clever in the way it uses its minimal budget to maximum effect. Made with only $7,000, the filmmakers use their significant budget constraints to their advantage, telling the story primarily through flashbacks via the videotape footage. This means that much of the film has a traditional found footage look and feel.
Before you let that turn you off from the film, you should know that this movie adeptly avoids a couple of the major crimes often committed by films in this sub genre. First, there’s a really good reason for the use of found footage that makes sense and works really within the framework of the story. Second, the found footage elements are integrated well with traditional narrative filming style (showcasing some great directing and camera work). Thus, the use of found footage never feels contrived or gimmicky.
It’s easy to label this movie as torture porn, and it certainly has plenty of ultra-violent, hard-to-watch, stomach-turning scenes to satiate any fan of this sub genre. But unlike so many other films whose sole purpose is to shock and disgust, this movie has a depth to it that helps it rise above its brutal content. Ortega clearly has a great deal to say about the nature of evil, and there’s a real poignancy here that risks getting lost amidst the gore and depravity.
At its core, this film is as much psychological horror as it is torture porn. We not only get to see the unspeakable acts of cruelty committed by our killers, but we also get a glimpse into one killer’s past. We’re shown the gut-wrenching childhood trauma that turned Goyo (brilliantly portrayed by Ortega himself) into a brutal sadist and sociopath. Nothing here is easy or pleasant to watch. But the flashback scenes to Goyo’s heartbreaking teenage years are easily the most unsettling and hard to forget part of the entire film. The scene where Goyo finally snaps and becomes a monster will likely earn Atroz its place in the disturbing horror hall of fame.
Surprisingly, the film also manages to address some social and political horrors along with the psychological ones. This a gritty and ultra-realistic portrayal of violence committed against the forgotten members of society. The movie opens with a shocking statement about the number of unsolved murders that take place each year in Mexico. Amidst rampant crime, extreme poverty, and government corruption, victims become nameless and faceless statistics.
In case it’s not already abundantly clear, this movie is not for the sensitive or faint of heart. Hardcore gore and torture fans will be fine, but those whose tastes are more mainstream fare may not have the stomach for this one. Before you decide whether or not to give this film a watch, I should disclose that it contains copious amounts of the following: grotesque violence and imagery, blood, genital mutilation, vomit, feces, extreme torture, necrophilia, sodomy, rape and incest.
As much as I indulge in this type of extreme cinema, there were things in this movie I’ve never seen before and things I can’t unsee. That makes this movie a standout for me, but it’s most definitely not for everyone. Still, if you’re a fan of extreme cinema and fearless filmmaking, I urge you to give this one a watch. I found it to be a rather remarkable film.