M.L. Miller here! Welcome horror fans to my Annual countdown of the Best of the Best in Horror! Running every day through October, this list will culminate with the best horror film of the year announced on October 31st. Some of these films can be found in theaters—others have unfortunately only seen the light of day On Demand, DVD, BluRay, or digital download. I’ve tried to indicate in the reviews how you can watch and enjoy these films yourselves. I’ll also provide a “Worth Noting” secondary film suggestion in a separate post. These are films that stood out or just missed being on the list by a skosh—a little extra for those who can’t get enough horror.
How did I compile this list? I simply looked through films released between October 1st 2018 and September 30, 2019 and worked and reworked the list until I had the magic number, 31. This countdown is not for the elitists or festival goers, so if the film hasn’t been released to the masses, it won’t be on the list. Also anything released this October will most likely be on next year’s list—so sorry, no films like DOCTOR SLEEP or ZOMBIELAND 2 just yet.
I hope you’ll join me daily and don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!
Filled with unforgettably chilling moments, TERRIFIED is a fantastic ghost story from Argentina. I’ll get into the why’s and how’s later in the review, but this is a film that knows how to scare. Released on October 11, 2018 on Shudder, here’s my review of TERRIFIED! Available on SHUDDER!
Directed by Demián Rugna
Written by Demián Rugna
Starring Maximiliano Ghione, Norberto Gonzalo, Elvira Onetto, George L. Lewis, Julieta Vallina, Demián Salomón, Agustín Rittano, Natalia Señorales, Matias Rascovschi, Lorenzo Langer, Bruno Giacobbe, Laura Manzaneda, Ariel Chavarría, Hugo Halbrich, Fernando Diaz, Fabian Forte
Ghost stories have been reduced to jump scare marathons these days thanks to the House that Blum built. While the original INSIDIOUS and THE CONJURING offered up a lot to like along with these percussive sound jolts, palpable fear has dissipated with the endless sequels and spinoffs, leaving the Don Music head bangs as the only way to get the audience to react. Thankfully, there are still people out there able to conjure up a thorny atmosphere and pairing them with imagery out of the worst nightmares. TERRIFIED is one of those films. Maybe the fact that it is from another country that makes the film work so well. Let’s discuss.
When a series of paranormal events begin occurring on a specific block of homes in a small town in Buenos Aires, a group of ghost hunters and researchers descend upon the site to figure out what kind of evil force is seeping into our reality.
While the plot is pretty simple, the sequences involving the paranormal is far from it. TERRIFIED is filled with all sorts of bone-freezing moments and imagery; from a young dead boy who makes his way home from the grave to a creeper who slinks out of the closet. These are the stuff of nightmares brought to life by the talented filmmaker Demián Rugna. Rugna places our protagonist, police inspector Mazza in the middle of a situation he cannot explain. Like the audience, we witness some events that make little sense to a rational world. But Mazza is savvy enough to bring in three investigators who know all about it. So we see these events from the perspective of the noob and then the experts, which gives the film a sort of ROSHOMON effect where each investigator is experiencing one part of the phenomena. There’s one scene in particular where both teams of investigators (who split up in order to cover both of the affected houses) are viewed from the outside across the street that is as suspenseful as they come. Both teams are experiencing these frights, but are unaware of the other team’s trouble and also unaware of an unseen menace looming over them.
Rugna knows how to structure his scares. He positions his camera to show you the horror and then show you that the person in the scene is unaware of the horror. This is not a new effect, but I’m surprised how little it is used in modern American horror films as it works so well with the audience knowing and anticipating an attack, but the person in scene is oblivious. There are multiple scenes of this sort throughout TERRIFIED and each one works perfectly. The imagery of the scares really does evoke a true sense of terror. The film plays out almost like an anthology as the horrors are different from one house to the next. The connective tissue being the overall seepage of one terrifying dimension into our own. As Rugna switches from one address on the haunted block to the next, it feels like separate stories being told.
I don’t know why foreign films like this work. Maybe it’s because the actors don’t look so slick and polished. Maybe it’s because it seems like studio intervention is at a minimum. Maybe because it doesn’t dumb down its fears to appeal to the masses. Or maybe it’s simply because I don’t see enough of them and the one’s I do are the cream of the crop. TERRIFIED nevertheless is a truly frightening film. If Hollywood horror would take extensive notes on TERRIFIED, there would be a hell of a lot more American horror to give a damn about. Highly recommended. Watch it with the lights out for maximum effect!
THE COUNTDOWN SO FAR…
#25 – TERRIFIED
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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