“I can see it but, at the same time, I can’t see it.”
This line from a character in Demián Rugna‘s Terrified sums up everything unsettling about it: What if you could see a threat but then, a moment later…not see it? But it’s still there.
Entities that defy natural laws are, aptly, terrifying, and that’s the core creep factor from this Argentine festival circuit darling. The film follows a series of unusual and unnatural events that occur in a small neighbourhood in Buenos Aires. A lot of it is show rather than tell, but don’t hold your breath for any lengthy lore or explanations – scenes fall mainly under the categories of scare, creep and disturb.
There is some human drama but, for a community that is so tight-knit, very little time is devoted to showing us that closeness, bar some quick dialogue that seems like an afterthought. Characters are thin and give the cast little to work with, and even their reactions at the horror on screen seem more like ‘meh’s. Yes, the tension is palpable and the scares are top-notch, but both would have been all the more chilling and haunting had we had some fleshed-out characters to attach them to. Blame this on the choking running time – less than 90 minutes – which makes scenes feel like unrelated horror shorts stitched together, rather than a cohesive narrative.
In place of a proper wrap-up at the end, we get a declaration of loose ends and a jump scare seemingly designed for 3D. So, while I was marvelling at the horror side of things, the set pieces felt disconnected as if, on paper, this was intended to be a bigger, longer film, with family connections or generational backstories or just something to tie it all together. Curiosity for the conclusion is a good motivator to stay watching, but I felt a bit cheated when it seemed like a possible set-up for a sequel.
Still, I came for the scares, stayed for the scares, and was wowfully impressed by the scares. At times, it suffered from its lack of VFX budget, but skirted the issue with some genuinely effective photography.
Overall, one I’d absolutely recommend, and which more than lives up to its title.