Monday, October 18, 2021

TERRIFIED (aka ATERRADOS) (2017) Movie Review

Scare-A-Thon Totals to Date:

Total Movies Watched: 16
Total First Time Views: 11
Amount raised for ALBANY PARK THEATER PROJECT: $1186.40

Terrified (aka Aterrados) (2017) d. Demian Rugna (Argentina) (89 min) (1st viewing)

On a quiet street, in the suburbs of Buenos Aires, exists not one haunted house, but a cluster of three, each presenting its own particular spirit (ha) of menace. After one man’s wife is murdered (in horrific fashion) in her bathroom by a poltergeist, an impromptu team of supernatural investigators – Mario Jano (Norberto Gonzalo), Mora Albreck (Elvira Onetto), and Dr Rosentok (George Lewis) – assembles to uncover and hopefully resolve the mystery while resident police commissioner Funes (Maximiliano Ghione) tries to keep matters under wraps and his pulse rate down (due to a heart condition).

Argentinian writer/director Rugna understands what makes a haunted house movie tick, creating an almost unbearable degree of tension before delivering powerful shocking visuals (and accompanying aural jump scares, having done the music as well) as punctuation. Honestly, it’s been a long time since I felt the old butt cheeks clenching to this degree, and I have nothing but admiration for someone who can pull the viewer’s strings this effectively.

Now, the question as to how effective an overall MOVIE Rugna has put together will depend on your definitions of what makes for a great ghost story, as well as any preexisting expectations. If you are someone who loves a good mystery, generally you’re going to want to have a relatively tidy explanation come the closing credits. That will decidedly not be the case here, since a good deal is left up in the air and undeciphered.

Some genre fans (like myself) might see this as an asset purely because of its unconventional nature; we’re so used to having a reason behind the haunting, along with a solution or at least a plan, the idea of NOT being given either is a kick in the pants as well as the teeth. We are right there alongside the investigators, not knowing what the hell is going on or why, trying to figure it out before we get ourselves killed.

The grounded performances by the universally excellent ensemble allows Rugna to weave quite the ominous spell, with creepy images galore and chilling dream logic. We have a child straight out of W.W. Jacobs’ “The Monkey’s Paw” who strolls back into his mother’s kitchen three days after having been buried and sits down motionless in front of a bowl of cereal. We have naked boogeymen taking up residence in wardrobes and under the bed. We have elongated and disembodied limbs reaching out of the shadows and cracks in the wall. And we have that opening bathroom sequence that belongs in the “shower horror Hall of Fame” alongside Psycho, Dressed to Kill, Thirst, and Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. (Seriously, this one messed me up a little, and that takes some doing these days.)

The decision to short us on story and prioritize the scare factor is one that I’m sure fans will have their debates over. (I know I went back and forth myself as the closing credits crawled.) But at the end of the night, I’m thankful to have spent 90 minutes in the hands of someone with the cojones to say, “Yeah, we still don’t know what’s going on. Scary, right?” while delivering the freakout goods. Recommended.

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