In the battle between good and unknown evil we really expect the unknown evil to be pretty bad ass in order to have a reasonable chance at moving the fright meter. There is a formula for the revelation of unknown evil that progresses from eerie to spooky to creepy to scary to holy-crap! That's when the unknown evil turns out to be pretty bad-ass.


The longer and slower that build-up is, the better the scare when the nature of the evil is revealed. It's why "Paranormal Activity 1 2 and 3" worked so well. It's why "The Exorcist" and "The Omen" worked so well. It was really effective in Hitchcock's "Psycho" even when the unknown evil was revealed rather early.


Director Michael Williams has a fairly good understanding of that formula, and he almost pulls it off except he forgot to make the revelation truly morbid; or at least gut wrenching. Instead Williams latest film gets you almost to the edge of your seat, then allows you to ease back into a compfortable position rather than kicking you out of teh seat!

Virginia Newcomb and Michael LaCour star as Vera and Ray, a husband and wife with a young son named Sam (Cannon Bosarge), who are having marital issues and problems with a eerie presence in their home. The eerie presence isn't necessarily bothering them, but it is causing Sam to have nightmares. Moreover,these nightmares are taunting them into revealing an unknown to him.


The home is seemingly haunted by some sort of spirit that manifests itself as a young girl in Sams dreams. Vera and Ray know what it is but are trying to keep the truth from Sam. The truth that there was a murder in the house.


The revelation near the end is well timed however there is never enough fear instilled in the occupants to make the revelation meaningful. There is never a real level of terror which leaves the resulting evil not very scary at all.


However, the concept of the unknown evil is amusing despite the poor execution. Newcomb and Bosarge are pretty good at emoting their fear even though LaCour comes off rather unbelievable. The rest of the cast is... well, employed. With the exception of the experienced Dorothy Weems, don't expect to see much from this group.


Williams had moderate success with "Ozland" (2014) but was working with a much better narrative. This film doesn't show much growth, though the cinematography is pretty good.


"The Atoning" is a fairly decent thriller that could have used a few more scare scenes to add to the creepiness. Director Michael Williams does a fairly good job holding the twist until the last possible moment; but don't expect to lose any sleep over the end. [VOD, DVD]   -- GEOFF BURTON