Writer-director Demián Rugna’s Terrified was one of FrightFest’s most hotly anticipated films, promising full-blooded scares (a promise made by the filmmaker in a charming and immensely quotable video intro), and it definitely starts with a bang. No sooner have we had the obligatory but decidedly creepy “hearing voices” scene than we’re witnessing a horrifying and brutal supernatural attack in the home of Juan (Agustín Rittano) and his wife.
But Rugna doesn’t pause for breath, taking us next door for the sleepless horrors that Juan’s neighbour Walter (Demián Salomón) is enduring. There’s a slight tonal shift from house to house, from confrontational shocks to creeping dread, but there is the sense that Rugna is gleefully refusing to allow his audience to get comfortable. It’s highly effective stuff, and the sense of unease is compounded by the introduction of a third supernatural occurrence in the house across the street, as a recently deceased young boy returns home to take a seat at the dinner table. It’s at this point that Rugna finally takes a breath and introduces characters and plot, and interestingly it’s here that the film begins to stumble.
By the time we meet the people who are actually protagonists, it feels like the film is nearly halfway done. So, once cop-with-a-weak-heart Funes (Maxi Ghione) and the team of greying paranormal investigators (at least one of whom feels inspired by the Insidious franchise) decide to find out what’s going on in these houses, we’re not particularly invested in them and their leisurely conversations begin to drag. Instead of being drawn in, we’re waiting to see what Rugna can offer in the way of a crescendo and grand finale. There are certainly plenty of ghoulish surprises to come, some impressive body-contorting effects shots and a couple of excellent jump scares, but we’re eagerly awaiting, rather than dreading, these moments.
The pacing may feel a little out of control, and the character development may be lacking, but there are some real scares to be had in Terrified. The dual locations work nicely and Rugna clearly has a flair for the genre, and although this doesn’t quite live up to its potential, we’re excited to see what he does next.
Terrified was seen and reviewed at Arrow Video FrightFest 2018.