Terrified (Aterrados) – Review

A film doesn’t have to have great scale to work effectively. The reason that the horror genre is so attractive to first time feature film makers is two fold. It can be particularly cost effective, which is always a concern and it can be a small in terms of the scope of the ambition of the project. The Argentinian horror Terrified is a fine example of a film that works so well just because of the how it keeps the story small but very effective.

Terrified boasts a terrific cold opening as we encounter a housewife who is scared out of her wits. She cannot go into her kitchen because she is convinced that she is hearing voices coming from the sink. If that wasn’t disturbing enough , the voices are telling her that she is going to die. You get the feeling that it won’t be of natural causes several decades from now. Although her husband is sympathetic he fails to see the danger in the situation until it literally knocks on his wall. From there the story goes back to the origin of the issues and how we ended up in a house of horror.

The film does not hold back on the gore and blood. From the start we are treated to some bloody and sickening horror moments. Given the tense and claustrophobic opening this isn’t unexpected but it still a bit of a shock. There are some great effects both practical and computer generated in use. The return from the dead of a small boy is both eerie and disturbing as he sits at his dining table not drinking his milk.

Shocks are used to great effect without resorting to the usual tactic of going quiet only for there to be a loud bang to accompany a scare in the story. Here the scares are swift and unexpected due to the lack of any audio signposting which is an unfortunate feature of most mainstream horror films these days. That isn’t to say that sound doesn’t play an important part. The audio design is handled in a subtle and clever way in order to fully immerse you. During some of the more heightened scenes, every creak or shuffle of furniture has a profound effect on the protagonists which in turn affects the audience.

One of the best uses of scares comes from the humble monster under the bed element. Here it is done with a clever twist that so simple that it is a wonder that it hasn’t been used that much before now. This, in conjunction with some inspired creature design, adds an extra layer to the unfolding horror on screen.

There is a rich vein of black comedy running through the movie. As investigators are called to the scene of the horrors, there’s plenty of scope for lighter moments. The main detective is a good case in point. He is an absurd character who obviously plays by his own rules which are never questioned by those around him as he gets results. His management of the situation, no matter how strange, and solutions to the problems encountered when trying to conceal a body are a real highlight.

The movie is well constructed with a good sense of pace. It wastes no time in getting to the main body of the story. It never hangs about and the structure ensures that the audience never get lost but in the plot intricacies and at the same time do not get bored. The use of flashbacks and the story bookended by police interviews works well here as they tell the story in a way that feels very satisfactory.

Terrified deserves to be seen by as many people as possible but the chances are you will have to seek it out on a streaming platform in the near future. It’s a pity if that is the case as it makes for a good cinematic experience. The announcement that it has been optioned for an English language remake with Guillermo Del Toro producing hopefully will give the original the boost it deserves.

John McArthur
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