Directed by Demián Rugna.
Starring Maximiliano Ghione, Norberto Gonzalo, Agustín Rittano, Elvira Onetto, George L. Lewis, and Natalia Señorales.
Ghostly goings-on in a suburban street in Buenos Aires warrant a paranormal investigation by three experts and a highly-strung police commissioner.
James Wan has a lot to answer for. As well as often getting the credit for inventing torture porn (he didn’t – he may have helped sow the seed but it was Eli Roth, Rob Zombie and Darren Lynn Bousman who were far more instrumental in its genesis, but that is another conversation for another day) he also set the template for mainstream supernatural horror movies with his Insidious/The Conjuring pairing, movies that trapped into the same vein as classic’70s giants The Exorcist and The Amityville Horror but added the crowd-pleasing cheap jump-scares that have inexplicably remained in place in the genre for the past decade or so.
And so with both movies spawning lucrative franchises where audiences are still surprised when CGI creations lurch at the screen at silly speeds, it comes as no surprise that this style of filmmaking has influenced several horror titles from around the world in recent years and Argentinian filmmaker Demián Rugna’s Terrified is one of the more notable, mainly thanks to a well-received screening at London’s FrightFest a couple of years back.
The plot involves a street in Buenos Aires where some unusual ghostly activity has been taking place, resulting in the arrest of Juan (Agustín Rittano) for murder, although we know and the paranormal investigators quizzing him know that he didn’t do it. Through a series of flashbacks we see what led up the events in Juan’s house, why he hasn’t seen his neighbour for a while and just what is that funny smell in the house across the street?
But it doesn’t end there as once we’re all caught up on how we got to that point it’s full steam ahead as our team of investigators and Commissioner Funes (Maximiliano Ghione) take their places in the three allegedly haunted houses and await whatever forces are at work there.
So we have paranormal investigators, strung-out cops and furniture moving about on its own, which are things we have seen before in dozens of horror movies from over the decades but Terrified has a secret weapon in its presentation of its monsters. Most of the good stuff happens in the first act, with one scene in particular making a strong visual impact, and with that image in mind it is quite easy to think that the movie is going to go all-out and offer up many more shocks that you don’t see in every other James Wan clone movie hitting the streaming services with uniformed regulatory.
However, that is not the case as after the strong first act Terrified moves into generic people-move-around-dark-houses-while-things-pop-up-in-the-background territory and the pace unfortunately lags a little, bringing things back a bit for the final act but with not quite the same amount of intrigue as what it began with. Couple the lessening momentum with a few cheap jump-scares and some iffy CGI creatures that look pretty good until they move and Terrified falls short of delivering on its early promise, although the final scene does work hard to bring back the eeriness of the first act.
Despite being full of the sort of audience-baiting tropes that make box-office hits out of the most mundane of horror movies Terrified does have the air of something a little edgier, and that first act is guaranteed to unsettle anybody who thinks the Annabelle doll is the peak of terrifying horror icons. It probably doesn’t help that the subtitles – which may already put some people off – aren’t exactly accurate and even (un)helpfully inform you when there is music playing, which does get a bit annoying, but otherwise Terrified is a confident but flawed supernatural horror movie that probably does enough to please the James Wan worshippers but also feels liked it could have – and should have – gone a lot further than it actually did.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★