Terrified is a hard movie to describe. I can describe what's in it, the things that happen, but it's kind of difficult to fathom how everything is supposed to fit together, or if it is supposed to at all. Writer/director Demián Rugna seems content to throw a bunch of frightening images at the screen and see what sticks without paying too much attention to any underlying story, other than everything taking place in the same neighborhood.
After his wife Clara (Natalia Señorales) hears voices in her kitchen saying they are going to kill her, Juan (Augustín Rittano) at first writes it off. Later that night, however, Clara is brutally murdered by an unseen force. Juan is accused of the murder, but former police officer Jano (Norberto Gonzalo) and psychic investigators Dr. Albreck (Elvira Onetto) and Dr. Rosentock (George L. Lewis) visit him in prison to get his permission to investigate his house.
Juan's house is not the only one involved. Juan's neighbor Walter (Demián Salomón) has disappeared after repeatedly asking for help with a ghost in his home, while the recently deceased son of Alicia (Julieta Vallina), who lives across the street from Walter, has made his way home to his mother. That is the case that Jano is initially called in on, and he enlists his friend Commissioner Funes (Maximiliano Ghione) to help him with the case. At first delighted at what they find, they soon find out that whatever is causing the disturbances is coming for them as well.
Terrified feels like it should have been an anthology film, with the investigators as a wraparound. Both Walter's story, and the return of Alicia's son, were stories that could have been fleshed out further. It's as if with Alicia we get the beginning and a middle, while with Walter we get a middle portion, and with Juan and Clara it's just the end. I don't know if there was more to these in Rugna's mind, but there are nuggets of good stories in each.
Funes and the investigators make a good wraparound, since each goes to a different home, but Funes, through a past relationship with Alicia, seems more heavily involved and eventually surfaces as a main character. Granted, once things get going there is talk about creatures that exist in both light and darkness, making them visible or invisible depending on what angle they are looked at, as well as talk about other dimensions overlapping ours in order to explain why everything is happening in this one Buenos Aires neighborhood. Personally, the explanation doesn't mean that much, as the events are what drive the movie.
That said, ignoring the fact that there isn't much of a central plot to drive things, Rugna still successfully makes an effective film. Part of it is the makeup work, particularly the tall naked man in Walter's home and the corpse of Pucho, Alicia's son. The whole sequence of Jano and Funes trying to come up with a logical explanation, with a corpse that other officers wear they have seen move, is rather tense, and Clara's death just comes out of nowhere.
I do think the music gets a bit overwhelming sometimes, and if I spoke Spanish I don't think I would have been able to make out some of the dialog without subtitles on because of it. In addition, there are too many times where jump scares are relied upon, which isn't necessary since the best scares in Terrified are things just happening. Rugna does such a good job of just showing that whatever these people are afraid of is real that there is no need to go the cheap route.
The level of satisfaction one may get from this will differ. To some it may just be a series of random events with no point, while others will appreciate the twists Rugna puts on a number of tried and true horror themes. I'm among the latter, enjoying it for what it is, and hoping that when the inevitable sequel comes along it has a little more story to keep viewers engaged, but doesn't ruin it by trying to explain what happened in detail.
Time: 87 minutes
Starring: Maximiliano Ghione, Norberto Gonzalez, Julieta Vallina, Elvira Onetto, George L. Lewis
Director: Demián Rugna