Eric’s Review: Terrified (Aterrados) (2018)

Welcome to the horror movie party, Argentina! Paranormal nastiness infects the whole neighborhood in this bloody South American take on hauntings.

★★★★ out of ★★★★★

Directed By Demián Rugna

Argentina, and South America, in general, is not well known for producing horror movies. A parallel could be drawn to Tumbbad, which elevated the Bollywood horror fare to the western audience for Idian fare. But for Argentinean horror movies, there isn’t a giant movie production engine in Buenos Aries like there is in Mumbai, so Terrified has to be considered a huge achievement. The great thing about horror movies is that you can do a great one on the cheap, and can make pretty good bank while they’re at it.

Enter Demián Rugna, directing his first horror movie, after a couple other features, the road trip comedy You Don’t Know Who You’re Talking To, and a sci-fi thriller The Last Gateway. neither of which got any US promotion. Terrified, however, has been a bit of a buzz engine, thanks to its fierce portrayal of three intertwined hauntings in a Buenos Aries suburban neighborhood.

Interestingly this is almost like an anthology movie, in that there are three intertwined stories built into the overall plot of Terrified.

We are first introduced to the married couple Clara (Natalia Señorales) and Juan (Augstin Rittano) who are confounded by odd noises in their home. Juan believes it to be their eccentric neighbor Walter, but Clara claims she’s hearing voices. What they’re saying, she doesn’t know. Late one following evening, Clara and Juan get woken by the strange noises, and while Clara goes to use the Loo, Juan gets irate at Walter, thinking that he’s the one making all the noise. The thumping gets louder and it becomes clear… that thumping is not Walter. It’s something… terrifying.

Scary DVDs! Woo!

We then get Walter’s tale. Indeed he has been making some loud noises, to which he had told Juan was “Construction work.” But in reality, his house seems to be plagued with a poltergeist, as furniture gets shuffled around his house with invisible hands at work. Walter is quickly going mad, as he is growing convinced that what haunts him is UNDER THE BED. Nobody wants to try and help him, so he becomes a crazy hermit in his house of shifting furniture. He shoos away a nosy neighbor child, Niño (Matias Rascovshi) who having been warned out of Walter’s driveway, gets plowed into by a City bus.

So Niño’s unfortunate fate becomes the focus of the third story. He’s not ready to be buried yet, and manages to crawl from the grave, and takes a seat at his shocked mother Alicia’s (Julietta Vallina) table, mostly immobile, and mostly dead, still. Mostly. This naturally catches the attention of Alicia’s ex – Police Captain Funes (Maxi Ghione) and he knows just who to contact.

At this point in the film, I was trying to figure out how this was all going to get pieced together. Surprisingly, this turns into a bit of a paranormal ghost chaser movie. Captain Funes enlists the help of three parapsychologists, experts of the mystical and unknowable, to look at these three cases. Jano (Norberto Gonzalo), Dr. Mora Albreck (Elvira Onetto), and Rosenstock (George Lewis) all agree to investigate the strange and violent happenings, and each one stakes out a different house.

Everything to this point had been well scripted and well plotted, but why in the world would you split up like this, and do one house at a time? What’s the rush? They broke one of the cardinal sins of horror films, right from the jump. Let’s divide the group! But that’s a mere quibble because what gets revealed is some legitimately scary stuff.

Somewhat unknowingly, I realized I had been clutching a bath towel hard when watching this movie. (I was folding laundry and watching the movie, so give me a break!) Evidentally, Terrified is masterfully paced. The jump scares are earned, and the all the hauntings are really well executed. The whole cast, right down to little Matias Rascovshi were convincing and earnest. I wish I had more time with Juan and Clara, to be honest. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Rugnes casting older actors to be his leads. It grounds the film in a way that young pretty actors tend to make artificial.

The pacing and the back and forth took a bit of time getting used to, but midway through the second act, the path was clear, and you realized that there were three simultaneous stories to follow. It’s not unlike Pulp Fiction in this way. Lots of intermixing of story threads and timelines that triggers a number of “Aha!” moments, but also leave you at times perplexed as to where the script is taking us. It would not surprise me if Rugna turns out to be a huge Quentin Tarantino fan.

This feature has the potential to be a vanguard movie for Argentinian Horror films. Maybe Rugna will end up being the next Can Evernol (Turkey) or Babak Anvari (Iran); part of the new international wave of horror directors, and prop the door open for more good South American scary stuff. Rugna played it straight, and it paid off, big time.

Terrified (NOT to be confused with the super gory clown feature Terrifier) is not rated, but would certainly garner an R rating for some of the bloody mayhem the ghosts subject the neighborhood to. It is currently free, if you have a Shudder account. They are promoting the heck out of this film.

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