Review: The Atoning

Overview

The Atoning is a horror thriller film with the following description from IMDB, “While they are haunted by ghostly apparitions, two parents try to protect their young son from a dark secret that could destroy their family.” This is the second feature film from director Michael Williams following up his previous film Ozland, which was a kind of an allegorical post-apocalyptic film.

The Good

For an independent film, it is technically very well done. The cinematography is nice and the direction by Williams works well for the genre. The story is a bit slow at times but it kept my interest for the whole film. Williams uses the tools of horror films including suspenseful music, disorienting and interesting cuts, and limited dialogue to keep you on your feet and wondering what’s coming next.

There is limited special effects and makeup but they are done well and work to make the movie better. The music is also very appropriate. For most of the film, the sound is also very well done which is something often overlooked in independent films and sometimes not even well executed in big budget films.

The Bad

It is slow at times, more in the beginning when you are left a bit more in the dark about what’s happening. The overall message of the film is not exactly clear and without giving too much away, it just left me with a bit of an empty feeling at the end.

The acting is uneven. At times the actors do a great job, especially in the scary moments but other times the acting feels flat. The uneven acting, however, was not a big distraction and overall still considerably better than some other independent films.

Spiritual Content

Williams has not set out to make an overtly Christian film and that strategy can still lead to films that explore faith and spirituality and bring the audience closer to exploring their own faith more. However, with things like psychics, purgatory and some other spiritually non-Christian elements shown not in a clear way to be wrong, it leaves me wondering the spiritual point and direction for the film. There are also what appears to be demons but it’s not clear what their purpose is either.

Williams has let me know that this is not supposed to be a direct parallel with our world and its spiritual meanings are not meant to be taken in the same context as our world. However, I find this a bit confusing and perhaps misleading in terms of Christian beliefs.

Take Away

As I said, it’s a very well-done film on a lot of levels but the story is a bit lacking with the ending and the overall meaning of the film. For me, a good ending is key to a good film and I didn’t quite find it here. I think Williams is clearly talented and has a lot of potential ahead of him. I look forward to seeing what he does next but also hope the next film is a little more spiritually clear.

See our previous interview with Director Michal Williams.

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  1. The purpose of the “demons” was very clear in the movie.

    **SPOILER** The psychic summoned those entities to make the family come to grips with what happened, and when the entities grabbed the family members they each recalled how they actually died.

  2. I can see that after you explain it. But I didn’t think that was clear. That’s not the most important thing though. For me the thing that I would much rather have is a spiritual dynamic that fits in with the one that we currently are dealing with in the real world. Otherwise the message is diluted and confusing, at least to me. I think it could work more allegorically however, if it was more obviously removed from our world. I also would have really liked it if the father would have been redeemed especially since he was actually trying to redeem himself. Those are just my thoughts though. If other people see more in it, that’s great.

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