While horror may be one of the more diverse genres when it comes to films, it’s hard to disagree that new releases usually follow a set trend or fad. Copycat mentality can often be the difference between making a small obscure film and a small film that gets thrust into the spotlight. It’s not always a matter of talent, but more so being in the right place at the right time. Demian Rugna’s Terrified throws every conceivable scary idea he can imagine into a blender, to create the kind of film that’s sure to scare anyone, at least once. Yes, this may not win any Oscars, but it makes for an extremely entertaining thrill ride.
In Buenos Aires, a residential street is plagued by a string of supernatural occurrences. A man comes home to find his wife complaining about voices in the pipes threatening to kill her. When he ignores her pleas for help, he’s awoken by a thumping in the night and is greeted with a grisly and horrifying sight. His neighbor isn’t having a much better time. Bedridden, he’s fearful of setting foot elsewhere in his house, due to the massive albino creature lurking under his bed. Across the way, another house is visited by the apparently reanimated corpse of a small child. Something stinks in suburbia.
The strange spat of supernatural activity catches the attention of a couple paranormal investigators, who enlist the help of a police officer. They individually split up to take residence in each one of the haunted houses, determined to get to the bottom of things, through their own techniques. Science, religion and detective work all go into ridding the presence of the specters. Out of all the characters, Maximilliano Ghione’s police officer makes the biggest impression. Serving as both the ostensible lead and audience surrogate, his viewpoint is essential the film’s success. One scene which sees him staring through a double pane window, calling out via walkie-talkie to another house, will be on highlight reels for years to come.
Admittedly, not everything works here. Given the budget, some wonky CG work rears its ugly head on occasion. It’s never enough to detract overall. That’s because Rugna employs an “everything plus the kitchen sink” mentality that produces few lulls. The story is where things truly falter, though some would argue that’s to be expected. Pieces are taken wholesale from any number of other horror movies from years past. Heck you could easily sell most people on the pitch of “it’s like Poltergeist, on crack!” That shouldn’t dampen expectations, it should heighten them. Rugna is obviously well versed in horror tropes and puts a slight spin on well worn tactics. Moments may be telegraphed a mile away, yet are still able to make a powerful impact thanks to stellar sound design and solid creature work.
There’d be an easy case to label something like Terrified as cheap, if so many of its scares fell flat. Yet they end up working, more often than not. That’s largely because Rugna invests a healthy dose of ingenuity to his set pieces. Jump scares often get decried as a lesser form of horror. What makes them so engaging here, is both the frequency at which they appear and the variety on display. Again, there’ll be at least one moment that gets even the most seasoned of veterans. It may not actually be the most terrifying film ever, but you’d be hard pressed to find a more fun experience this Halloween season. It even proves to be the rare case where the inevitable set up for a sequel isn’t met with groans. The mind reels at what gleeful shenanigans might be gotten into next time. The sooner, the better.
Terrified will be released exclusively on Shudder in October.