Argentine horror has come a long way in the last few years and it’s now one of the most promising markets for the genre. Most horror flicks from Argentina, however, belong to either the torture/porn sub-genre or have strong links with dramatic stories set in the 18th or 19th century.
Shudder exclusive Aterrados – which translates to English as Terrified – is, instead, a straight possession movie, thematically much more similar to American cinema than to the one from Argentina.
The film opens with a man returning home from work to find his wife scared to death, as she claims to hear voices telling her she’ll die. After comforting her and going to bed, he’s woken up by a loud banging on the walls, which he believes to come from the neighbour’s house. That’s not the case, as the noises came from the inside of the couple’s place, from the bathroom to be more specific: the man opens the door only to find his wife covered in blood and being thrown left and right against the walls by an unseen force.
Whereas most horror flicks utilise this kind of opening sequences as a cheap way to grab the audience’s attention, in Aterrados we learn that this was the end of the story, as we see the man being interrogated by a police team – and, for once, they do believe to him. We then cut back to a doctor specialising in the paranormal, her colleague, and an ex police officer, who’re investigating strange occurrences in the neighbourhood where the opening scene took place.
Continue reading and check my final grade below…
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Besides the believing cops (for once) and the clever use of the opening montage, Aterrados sets itself apart from other flicks in the same sub-genre due to the unexpected amount of onscreen violence, gritty look and cinematography, and unconventional and shredded narrative (which, admittedly, can be hard to follow at times).
Yet, what most horror fans would be interested to is probably how scary this movie was. Well, I don’t think the ‘scare factor’ is what defines a good horror film, however I’d argue that Aterrados is one of the most frightening possession flicks I’ve seen lately: that’s due to the well-timed jump-scares and, mostly, the overall creepy atmosphere with a few shots where the entities are seen in their full form.
Speaking of the entities in Aterrados, I found very interesting how everyone involved in the story – both people who live in the neighbourhood and investigators – experiences paranormal occurrences in their own way. Though they are seemingly confronting the same spectral force, their experiences, discoveries and ultimately their fates will all be unique. With each of them in a different home we have immediately expanded the playing field and the opportunities for more individual experiences (and more scares).
Despite being quite impressed by Aterrados, I must say I found more flaws with it than most viewers (I heard only praises about the movie) and fellow critics (this film won many awards worldwide).
As I mentioned before, the story at points becomes too convoluted for its own good, but also takes a humongous dive in the middle: after a thrilling and exciting and spooky start – and before an enthralling final act – the central part of the movie drags, with a few scenes of just people contemplating the environment around them.
Also, the entire plot doesn’t have a motivation (we don’t know why these haunting accidents happen and what starts them) nor a closure (I can’t say more because I would spoil the ending).
My interpretation is that the whole story is a metaphor for personal fears and ‘ghosts’, which would explain why each character experiences the occurrences in their own way. Yet, the police believe the people from the haunted neighbourhood because they themselves have ‘ghosts’ to deal with on a daily basis.
Even if that’s the case, though, the meat in Aterrados is rather unfulfilling. Ultimately, this is a very entertaining and spooky film, which most likely will appeal to fans of the paranormal who’re tired of the same old plots and executions in their beloved sub-genre. However, it could’ve also been a much powerful picture in the long run, had the filmmakers put more effort into a cohesive story and compelling motivations.