Synopsis: In the near future, when communications go offline at a remote nuclear power plant isolated in the desert, a young safety inspector, Abby Dixon, is forced to fly out to bring them back online. Once inside the facility, mysterious clues and strange behaviors cause Abby to have doubts about the sanity, and perhaps identities, of the two employees onsite.
Release Date: March 17, 2017 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Sci-Fi, Thriller
SyFy original films have a reputation for being over-the-top and exploitive, but they can be a mixed bag of quality. When done right, we get awesomely fun movies like Sharknado and Dinocroc vs. Supergator. When done wrong, we get movies like Atomica.
Atomica is set in a post-apocalyptic world where a company called Auxilisun has figured out how to produce energy while cleaning up the waste from all of the failed nuclear power plants that litter the desolate landscape. When the communications system goes out at one of the stations, an engineer named Abby Dixon (Sarah Habel from Hostel: Part III) is sent to investigate and repair. When she arrives, she is greeted hostilely by a mechanic named Robinson Scott (Dominic Monaghan from The Lord of the Rings) who is unusually protective of the outpost. Once he warms up to her, Robinson tells Abby that the other inhabitant of the station, a scientist named Doctor Zek (Tom Sizemore from Private Number and Halloweed), left days ago and has not come back. Conveniently, Zek does came back, and he provides a very different version of events. One man is not who he says he is, and it’s up to Abby to decide who she can trust and who she can’t.
So, Atomica isn’t all bad. Director Dagen Merrill (Beneath, Murder in the Dark) manages to craft an entire world using a mere three characters in what is essentially a bottle. There are no monsters, which is a surprisingly refreshing revelation for a SyFy film. In fact, there are very few visual effects in the film at all. For a SyFy original, Atomica is very minimalistic and restrained.
That doesn’t mean that it’s good, though. The plot unfolds way too slowly, as if Merrill only had a thirty minute script and padded it out to eighty. While the movie is never really boring or tedious, it doesn’t really ever get going either. There’s a sense of waiting for something to happen, and while things eventually do, they don’t justify the wait. There’s slow burn, and then there’s Atomica.
For their part, Dominic Monaghan and Tim Sizemore do their best to carry the film. Monaghan is creepy as hell, and Sizemore is at his Sizemore-iest. But, unfortunately, Sarah Habel is just not a strong enough leading lady to pull her weight with the guys. Her performance comes off as cold and unfeeling, like she’s doing a table read instead of shooting the film.
Also unfortunately, Atomica plays with stereotypes and tropes in a way that makes one think that Habel’s acting ability is not what got her the job. Right as Abby is dropped off at the station, she is dressed in an unnecessarily sleek, sexy unitard-like spacesuit. Later, she is shown sleeping in her underwear (with Robinson creeping in the background). By the time the film gets to the obligatory shower scene (again with Robinson creeping), it’s almost laughable how obvious it’s being. Atomica is not a slasher movie, but that doesn’t stop Merrill from exploiting the physical assets of his actress.
So, while Atomica has its moments, the bad outweighs the good. With a little luck, SyFy will swing back around to creature features and make their movies fun again.
There are very few, if any, scares in Atomica. To be fair, it’s more of a sci-fi thriller than it is a horror movie, so no one should expect it to be terrifying, but it’s not even very thrilling. The premise opens itself up for some great mystery and intrigue, and the location, an actual abandoned missile silo, is very spooky. That and the truly unsettling performance of Dominic Monaghan should be enough to conjure up a few good chills, but nope. There’s nothing to be afraid of in Atomica.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Dagen Merrill
- Producer(s): Jaime BurkeVahan Paretchan
- Screenwriter(s): Kevin BurkeFederico Fernandez-ArmestoAdam Gyngell
- Cast: Sarah Habel (Abby)Dominic Monaghan (Robinson)Tom Sizemore (Zek)
- Editor(s): Joseph Ettinger
- Cinematographer: Timothy A. Burton
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Ronald Leamon
- Casting Director(s): Monica KellyJennifer Treadwell
- Music Score: Christian Davis
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA