2 out of 5
Directed by: Demian Rugna
I’m rather baffled by the positive reception this flick is getting. It certainly has some quality visuals and a good couple of “ya got me” jump scares, but everything else is affected with such amateurish impulses – a telegraphing, overloud score; too many jump scares, despite being non-fakeout ones; over-reliance on (<insert visual horror trope here>) to fuel the entire thing – that I found myself rather bored the whole while. But I did jump, which I haven’t done in forever, so that’s worth something.
Terrified’s structure is (like much of this film) both interesting and a failure. It seems like it’s going to be an anthology of connected scares centered around one neighborhood, but that turns out to just be poor editing that places the scaring of two neighbors up front and then jumps around a timeline of three paranormal investigators heading in to town to try to… something. Research? The film settles down from screeching strings (scary!) and missing frames (jerky movements!) for a quiet, composed section that shows how the investigators initially get involved, and the flick – notably at its most reserved and least forced at this point – starts to shape up: building character, building tension, and showing off some notes of humor. A jump forward to the investigation-in-motion has the poltergeist setup of the trio staying in the haunted homes, and then Terrified unleashes some really fun frights… that are, again, undermined by a score that clues you in as to when to tense up. There’s also the problem of explaining and then ignoring: we get the briefest of rule sets which the film has yet to follow and continues to not follow; instead of making us not feel safe, it just feels sloppy, and if the lack of safety was purposeful, it’s not used as such – the scares just end up feeling like a sequence of randomly strung together spooky images.
The tacked on epilogue essentially summarizes all of the same issues as what’s mentioned above, ending the film on a disappointing note as well.