Set in the mid 1970’s, The Atticus Institute is a mockumentary about Dr. Henry West and his research team who are trying to locate people possessing extraordinary abilities such as ESP and psychokinesis which was a popular topic at the time. The ‘documentary’ is replete with interviews and archival footage of test subjects purportedly with the special powers. Not surprisingly most of the subjects turn out to be frauds until they meet Judith Winstead. Initially sheepish and nerdy, Judith demonstrates uncanny abilities including telekinesis and pyrokinesis. As time goes on Judith’s powers grow and rather than be scared of her Dr. West pushes her to her limits while ignoring the fact that she is clearly unraveling. Eventually the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency is called in and the agency immediately reveals its plans to weaponize her.
A few years ago I expressed my enthusiasm for the chilling ‘Lake Mungo’ (2008), a mockumentary about the loss of a daughter to drowning and her subsequent ghostly appearances in her family home. Told in a similar fashion, “The Atticus Institute” is a convincing faux-documentary chronicling a woman with superpowers slowly going insane. Highly engrossing yet never scary, I enjoyed the ‘documentary’ and had to keep reminding myself that the interviews with staff, friends, family, etc. were all fake. Well worth your time despite the lack of “scares”.