Writer: Demián Rugna
Cast: Maximiliano Ghione, George L. Lewis, Elvira Onetto
Cert: 15 (TBC)
Running time: 87mins
What’s the story: When supernatural occurrences on a quiet suburban street lead to death, a police detective enlists the help of parapsychologists.
What’s the verdict: Reportedly Argentina’s first foray into paranormal horror, Demián Rugna’s Terrified lives up to its mission-statement title. Exploring territory previously charted by Ju-on, Insidious, Paranormal Activity and dozens of other supernatural shockers, writer/director Rugna nevertheless mines fresh jumps and jolts out of his fiendish little tale.
On a suburban street in a nondescript town something odd is happening. A woman complains that voices coming from the pipes are threatening to kill her. A man is convinced something torments him at night. When events turn deadly, baffled investigating detective Funes (Ghione) calls in the help of elderly ghostbusters including Rosenstock (Lewis) and Albreck (Onetto).
But, with the root of the malevolence fogged in mystery, does anyone know how to banish these unclean spirits?
Rugna unfolds his story using a tricksy time structure reminiscent of Takashi Shimizu’s classic Ju-on. He also borrows a moment from that film where a key character hides under bedsheets to escape the evil spirits.
An expertly paced opening scene patiently escalates unease, weaving in smart misdirection before a killer payoff of impressively realised twisted reality.
From here on reality never truly snaps back to its original shape. Scientific methods for tackling the ghostly infestation – camcorder evidence, concrete to inter restless reanimated corpses – do little to stop the horror.
Deceptively simple-looking effects vividly bring Rugna’s manifestations to life. Metal cutlery inexplicably dangles from the bottom of a wooden cupboard. A figure across the street moves rooms when the looker shifts position. The director also plays out a truly unsettling visitation in broad daylight that would make dark fantasist Guillermo del Toro proud.
The uncharitable could accuse Terrified’s insistence on keeping its mysteries opaque as the product of a script that knows how to set-up scares, but not to resolve them. But, with an Insidious-alike suggestion that this is the first chapter in a much bigger story, we’ll believe that supernatural cinema has a bold, unusual new voice.