Review: Atterrados/Terrified, One of 2018’s Best Horror Films

Halloween is over and all that remains is leftover candy.  As 2018 winds down, the best-of lists will come into sharper focus. Though I haven’t yet produced a best-of list for horror films (I will at some point), I am certain that I will include the Argentinian film Atterrados/Terrified, one of this year’s most visceral and chilling films that no one is talking about.

Aterrados

It’s easy to see why Terrified was overlooked. 2018, like its predecessor, had a lot of mainstream horror hits and box office success, including Hereditary, A Quiet Place, and the rebooted Halloween. While those films were all great in their own way, 2018 proved that indie and foreign horror films like Revenge and Terrified bode well for the future of the genre. Director and screenwriter Demian Runga’s film pays tribute to the genre with callbacks to staples such as Pet Cemetery and The Grudge, while creating unique visuals and set pieces that are nightmareish and warrant sleeping with the lights on.

Set in a Buenos Aires neighborhood, Terrified follows three neighbors who are besieged by the paranormal. The first narrative focuses on a wife who hears voices in the kitchen. Shortly after dismissing the wife’s fears, the husband witnesses her body levitating mid-air in the bathroom, banging against the shower walls, leaving streaks of blood. This early set piece and disturbing visual sets the tone for the remainder of the film.

The middle of the film contains the most developed and haunting story. After a  little boy is hit by a bus and his mother is left to grieve, his corpse returns and sits at the kitchen table before a bowl of cereal and a glass of milk. As paranormal investigators and an ex-cop try to make sense of the situation, the camera zooms in on the boy’s rotting, decayed flesh. The viewer is left wondering if the boy moved on his own.  Are the dirty footprints the boy’s, or do they belong to a mother so grief-stricken that she dug up the corpse of her son? The physical manifestation of grief is why the film’s middle narrative is the strongest.

As the paranormal disturbances increase, there are no Ed and Lorraine Warren-type characters to solve the problem. Even the paranormal investigators and police officers view the situation in a rational fashion, deciding it best to rebury the corpse and be done with it. This is where the film breaks from The Conjuring, Poltergeist, and other demonic/haunted house type films. No one comes to save the day, essentially. The cops and paranormal investigators don’t try to defeat the evil. They merely accept it and try to resolve it, even if that means weighing down the corpse of a boy with cement so he can’t claw his way out again.

Terrified follows a less traditional narrative structure than most films, and at times, it feels like an anthology. The only connection between the characters is that they share the same neighborhood. No explanation is given for the evil, and yet, somehow the film works without it. The first story is a full-throttle assault on the senses, and from there, the viciousness and scares are unrelenting. Terrified is one of 2018’s must-see horror films.

 

 

 

 

 

A Little Netflix Horror

As Netflix moves closer and closer to essentially becoming a streaming service that offers its own content, it can be hard to find good films that don’t hold the Netflix title, and films that are not Netflix content sometimes don’t stay on there for very long.

That said, there are two films recently added to Netflix that are worth any horror movie fan’s time. The first is a Korean movie entitled The Wailing. Directed by Hong-jin Na, this 2016 film clocks in at nearly three hours, but very few scenes feel like they drag. The film follows a police officer who investigates bizarre murders caused by a mysterious disease. People start to wonder if a Japanese stranger is the source of the village’s ills. Eventually, the officer’s daughter succumbs to the disease, and well, I don’t want to give away much more of the plot or spoil anything. The film is atmospheric, heavy on Biblical imagery, and generally unnerving. In fact, it’s the first horror film in quite a while that got under my skin and stayed with me for days after my initial viewing. The film’s use of A-horror tropes, especially the idea of ghosts and the past manifest in the present, is well done. It also has one of the best exorcism scenes I’ve ever seen on film, if you can even call it an exorcism scene.

My second recommendation  is the 2017 French-Canadian film Ravenous. Directed by Paco Plaza, this film generally plays with the zombie genre. At this point, I can understand why people would be tired of the endless barrage of zombie flicks, but this one works. Like 28 Days Later or Dawn of the Dead (2004), these zombies are more threatening. They run. They charge. They seem to be everywhere. The film follows a group of survivors in a remote, wooded town. The use of sound is the film’s most effective technique. This is a low-budget film, but one that employs sound in such a way that it makes it stand apart and above a lot of other recent zombie flicks. You can hear people crying off-screen, either survivors devoured by zombies or people turning into zombies. You can hear the thump, thump of an axe or a pipe wielded by a survivor as they kill one of their best friends who just turned. Unlike other zombie flicks, the movie isn’t as heavy on guts and gore and instead uses sound to establish it scares. When it does use gore, it feels breathtakingly real and gritty, streaked on the face of the survivor’s after they kill one of their friends, for instance. Furthermore, the shots of zombies standing on their porch stoops or standing in fields are just as unsettling. The film is well-worth the time.