As a horror fan, I’m always looking for the next scare. With the recent surge in streaming, I’m able to chase that feeling almost weekly; however, the release of something actually satisfying that craving is far and few in between. As an adult, there are a handful of films I can say genuinely scare me, and even at that, with the exception of Hereditary, I can shake the creeps off pretty quickly before moving onto the next new thing the community raves about. The month of October, this last weekend especially, is crammed with new horror series, film releases, and marathons of the classics. Between Netflix and Shudder, I felt like I was prepared with enough content to make this my scariest Halloween yet. What I was not prepared for was Shudder’s latest acquisition: Terrified.
Damián Rugna’s (The Late Gateway) Terrified, an Argentinian paranormal tale known as ‘Aterrados‘ to those familiar with the Spanish language, revolves around supernatural phenomena plaguing an average Gran Buenos Aires neighborhood. What starts with eerie whispers from a kitchen sink drain quickly turns into physically haunting manifestations, ending with a toxic, horrifying mixture of deadly realms. Spiritual and criminal investigators join forces to not only figure out what haunts the suburban street and its innocent inhabitants, but also to maintain and banish it before their dimension is taken over completely.
Maybe it’s because I viewed it alone, in the dark, and with a still environment all around me. Maybe it’s because I watched it at the strike of midnight. All I can tell you, to put it ironically simple, is that Terrified absolutely terrified me.It’s a modern haunting that combines ghostly elements with that of other dimensions while bolstering impressive visual effects, striking cinematography, and a unique score that is sure to send chills down any spine.
When I’m about to write a formal review, I always take notes–pen and paper style. Terrified captured my attention so quickly with an opening scene reminiscent of James Wan’s Insidious–another film that genuinely scared me–by the time I reached the second act, I was so creeped out that I had forgotten to retrieve my pen from the desk. Instead, I watched on in horrid anticipation. By the third act, I was too stunned to move from my bed. Who knew what was under there at that point?
In terms of style, tone, and overall feel, think Hereditary meets Insidious. Like Ari Aster’s Hereditary, everything about this is unsettling–from minute details to plot-turning events. It lures in your emotions then cuts the line with a quick, sharp blade; placing them in a state of dark unease. Rugna’s interesting angles are similar to that of Wan with slow zooms effectively building tension and anticipation before traumatizing us with visual assaults the way Aster did with his emotional Molotov cocktail.
While I’m a fan of “less is more”, I cannot deny supernatural manifestations when they are created and presented the right way. Terrified puts its monsters, deaths, and spooks before our eyes so effectively that it’s hard to forget what you’ve seen. Should we look away, they still remain even after we’ve gathered the courage to return our view. While we typically scrutinize the use of CGI, I know I do, Terrified utilizes the digital age to its advantage by leaving viewers few moments to doubt that what they’re seeing is real. I tip my hat, infinitely impressed, to all of the effects created by talented designer, Marcos Berta.
Death scenes are brutal, but they’re done in a way that only truly great filmmakers can produce. All of Rugna’s visuals are vicious–including an auto accident that makes Mary Lambert’s toddler truck slaughter look tame. And I still can’t look at my kitchen table for too long without getting that weird, invisible chill down my spine. It’s helped eliminate my midnight snacking problem completely.
To make matters even worse (better?), the imagery is equally as haunting and relentless; drawing your eye back to the lingering scare time and time again when all you want to do is look away. The frights come your way in a variety of paces. Some of them slowly crawl beneath the skin while others hit you at high-speed. When the police wait outside because a crime scene is too much to handle, you know it’s a bad situation. When they warn one another not to turn off the lights, all hope is gone.
It’s scenarios and dialogue like the above which strengthen Terrified–despite many fans and critics stating the opposite. Obviously, being spoken in Spanish and rendered in English subtitles, there are bound to be some conversational discrepancies where tones and phrases don’t always have the clearest of translations, but I found it to be ferocious. Rugna proves he can spin a scary tale with not only his visuals, but with his writing as well. Some lines ignite anxiety without showing anything other than the speaker. Any dialogue that causes a fearful reaction without the visual to go along with it gains points on my board.
Couple that with strong performances from Agustín Rittano, Demián Salomón, Maxi Ghione, Julieta Vallina, Elvira Onetto, and Norberto Gonzalo, and you’ve got yourself something to be excited about.
This original, fresh take on a haunting gives the horror genre another outlet to thrive on: the manipulation of perception. Terrified gives reason to these manipulations and details the outcome of what happens when we meddle with things that are not of this world. I’m glad I went into Terrified as blindly as I did.
Filmmakers like Damián Rugna and team make horror everything that is special to me. You can watch it on Shudder right now. In fact, sign up with promo code: MODERNHORRORS, and watch this one on us.
‘Terrified’ is an Unexpected & Unsettling Nightmare [Review]
Terrified is an Argentinian gift to the genre combining all of the haunting elements we seek out for a good scare and try hard to forget when the lights go out.