Terrified, or “Aterrados“, is a 2017 film from Argentinian writer and director Demián Rugna. Some of Rugna’s other films include 2007’s stylish and bizarre, yet somehow still underwhelming “intestinal portal to hell” film The Last Gateway, as well as 2022’s interestingly titled Satanic Hispanics. Much like the subject of my last film review, 2019’s A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio, this film was one that I found among many horror films on the DVD shelf at a Dollar Tree store this previous Halloween season (2022). Some of you may have watched it on Shudder, where it is still available to watch.
REVIEWER’S NOTE: In the last review, I stated that I did not purchase any Shudder “exclusives” with for my Halloween DVD giveaways. Looks like I was wrong. I was not aware that Terrified was considered an “exclusive” as every other Shudder release was marked as such.
When bizarre events occurring in a suburban Buenos Aires neighborhood lead to the deaths and disappearances of some of the residents, a former forensics expert, two paranormal researchers, and a detective nearing his retirement due to health problems find themselves working together to uncover the cause. The film starts harmlessly enough, with a married couple noticing bizarre voices emanating from their kitchen sink or banging sounds coming from their next-door neighbor’s apartment. However, things escalate quite quickly and violently.
Continuity may seem initially confusing as Terrified bounces around between different events set both post and prior to the opening sequence, The film also frequently shifts its focus to multiple characters. This latter concept may actually serve as one of Terrified‘s stronger aspects, allowing the film opportunity to create some backstory for most of these characters, as well as helping keep proceedings from becoming too predictably choreographed.
Terrified doesn’t try to hide the fact that otherworldly forces are at play, making that point crystal clear in the film’s early moments. In fact, the director seems quite focused on creating an unsettling atmosphere and dishing out plenty of creepy, frightening imagery, To this extent, Terrified generally succeeds, but not without taking its share of missteps. Whether intentional or not, Rugna frequently feels like he’s tapping into the more mainstream supernatural horror typified by James Wan’s Insidious and Conjuring franchises (and their various spin-offs), with nightmarish, yet still generally humanoid spectres from beyond skulking around and more than a few cheap jump scares. However, unlike many of those other films (or, more so, the films that they’ve inspired), these elements seemed less forced and a tad less derivative here.
Eventually, near the film’s final act, an explanation of sorts is given for the source of this paranormal activity, giving the tale more of a multi-dimensional tilt. I wouldn’t classify this as a “spoiler” as the concept is never explored enough to provide any additional insight to what these forces are or the reason, if one even exists, behind the sudden escalation in their presence. If anything, this approach marginally separates Terrified from some of its more classically “supernatural horror” kin, but also makes its plot a little more convoluted and non-sensical.
Thankfully, Terrified keeps a fairly steady pace throughout, keeping me from ever finding it dull or boring. There are also a few surprisingly brutal deaths to be found, most graphic without being gory. While the few creature-type effects that are presented are fairly simplistic in design, and while handled efficiently enough, are used less than one might expect. There are a few other somewhat smaller effects that aren’t handled quite as well, in particular, during the film’s final scene, which had my final reaction to Terrified be that of rolling my eyes.
The film concludes in notably open-ended fashion with little resolution and even fewer explanations. While there is definitely some argument to be made that Terrified featured two plot threads that didn’t quite tie together, the ambiguity created by the true lack of an ending was something I actually appreciated. As most of the film’s characters didn’t truly understand just what was going on, I guess it makes sense that the viewer should not either.
Overall, I found Terrified to be fairly enjoyable, at least for a one-time watch. And truthfully, that’s probably all Terrified will ever be for me; a quick diversion that provided a couple eerie chills, thrills, and creepy things aplenty. It’s nowhere as “deep” or as unnerving as it somewhat aspires to be, but also doesn’t feel as heavy-handled or cliched as some of its comparable American modern horror brethren. Worth the discount store price, if you find a copy, but can also be watch on Shudder (via Amazon Prime Video) with subscription.