Terrified (2017) Review
There are so many films I had on deck to review for #FrightDay, but after watching the Argentinian film Terrified (2017), I knew I wanted to start my review series here.
The movie has been on my to-do list for quite some time. But I finally came around to watching it last week, and immediately after I knew it was one I needed to recommend to my follow horror fans. It’s been quite some time since a movie has actually scared me, and even longer since one has evoked visceral reactions.
Terrified lives up to the name. It was actually pretty terrifying. It made me audibly yelp at least twice. From beginning to end the movie never let go. I remember a few minutes in, looking over at Danny and asking, “Um, is it just me or is this movie really fucking scary?” He agreed, picking his jaw up from the floor.
The film opens with a young woman hearing threatening voices coming from the drain in her kitchen sink, and soon after her husband finds her body suspended in midair being violently slammed back-and-forth, against the walls of their shower… The story progresses rapidly as other houses on the same block start to experience their own unique, and gruesome hauntings. A paranormal investigator, her colleague, and an ex-cop try to get to the bottom of it all and stop the evil forces that are causing the horrifying happenings.
Demián Rugna’s Terrified takes a typical haunt movie and turned it on its head. In a way, similar to how Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Pulse made us connect ghosts to technology, Terrified offers us a way to connect the typical idea of a haunting to the sci-fi concepts of parallel universes and perspective. As what the audience believes will be a restless spirit or a demon, turns out to be creatures that can move through different dimensions.
Trying to explain the plot without making the movie sound cheesy is difficult, for me at least. And I think that’s one of the aspects of the film that makes it a successful horror film. Because even though chatting about parallel universes may not send shivers up your spin – the film takes a unique concept, otherwise not scary, and puts a dynamic spin on it by triumphantly incorporating tropes we often see in movies about ghost hauntings. The result is almost like a darker, more brutal version of Insidious.
The movie has a very fair amount of common horror elements like gore and jump scares, all executed very well. But it is the dark, uneasy feeling established by the movie and its multitude of shock value that affected me the most. I wasn’t sure which way the story was going to unfold, and scene after scene I was drawn in more. Deeper into the film I went, and yet the uneasy feeling never let up and the shocks kept coming... like a multidimensional monster’s hand out of a huge crack in the wall… It was relentless. From the gut-wrenching truck scene, to the corpse of a toddler sitting at the dining room table. To seeing the creature for the first time [this was one of the only movies where the “monster under your bed” or in your closet theme actually made my skin crawl ]. And the final act, which left my heart pounding. It was brutal – but in the most stylish, and thoughtful way possible.
In horror, filmmakers can easily build up tension before we actually see our “monster” – but often times the reveal of the monster or creature or ghost is sobering. I think another reason why Terrified was so affective is because there is a lot of buildup, a lot of tension, a ton of mystery, and when the monster is revealed we, the audience, don’t sober up but instead spiral harder. The moment and the way the dimension-hopping monsters are presented only build up our fear even more. Rugna created an absolutely terrifying creature.
Not only is this haunted house story unique in the origin of the monster – not being a spirit, ghost or demon. But, it also expands the haunted house theme by not only containing the haunt to just one house. Similar to Ju-On: The Grudge – where the haunted house sort of infects its guests and continues to haunt them even after they leave – but unique in that it almost seems to spread with little rhyme or reason other than all affected houses being in the same neighborhood. I also enjoyed this aspect of the film, because each house affected by… whatever these creatures are… had almost its own sub-plot. Each house was affected by the haunt in its own unique way. From whispering drains, to corpses of dead toddlers returning home, and monsters lurking in wardrobes.
The only downside to the movie is that, even though successfully scary, the story isn’t fully realized. We don’t really get a lot of information or explanations. And even though I personally liked that the movie dives in head-first, there isn’t a lot of time dedicated to back stories or getting to connect with the characters. The ending could be a bit unsatisfying to some as it doesn’t answer any of the viewers’ questions, and there isn’t really a finite conclusion. So go into the film with the intention of having fun, being startled and being freaked the hell out - but not hoping for the next Silence of the Lambs.
Director: Demián Rugna
Writer: Demián Rugna
Cast: Maximiliano Ghione, Norberto Gonzalo, Elvira Onetto, George L. Lewis, Julieta Vallina, Demián Salomón
#FrightDay Rating: 3 ½ out of 5
Terrified is available exclusively on Shudder.
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