«The key was to show great respect for the effects»
Demián Rugna presents his film in Argentine Competition.
Filmmaker Demián Rugna's triumphant comeback to horror exploits all of the genre’s resources to tell a story of supernatural dimensions taking place in the outskirts of Buenos Aires city. With a superb technical quality and a highly precise staging, Terrified positions itself as the new exponent of the revival of the Latin American genre.
Terrified is set in a neighborhood in the outskirts of the city, with an atmosphere of a fear that is condensed inside those houses, specially, in those places that strengthen the genre -tubing, closets, dark corners-. How did you place the story in that context and in those spaces?
Those are the common places in small stories of low-budget films with basic premises: to tell a story with very few characters and locations. Terrified alludes to common fears. My intention was to tell a good story and to make it work. And the idea was to tell horror stories set in a common house. If the film didn't work, we would see those places as clichés. They are, actually. But it's the same things that happens with music: it’s irrelevant how many or which notes you use, the important thing is what you make with them.
Although some references can be observed, ranging from James Wan's cinema to the TV series X-Files or The Grudge saga, Terrified has your personal mark on every frame. What elements do you think are never missing in your cinema when it comes to planning the staging?
I think humor is always there, in spite of everything. Certain doses of absurd, trying to coexist with rationality; scenes where you can laugh, but you will instantly pay a price. I intend to make staging realistic and I try not to easily give up to the excuse of underestimating the task of making a film. The films that you mention are films that I admire, but it is hard to manage to make frames as theirs, given that they have time and money which we lack. Except for a couple of exceptions, the camera staging is limited to the shooting hours we allocate to each one of the scenes. I would say the frame is more important than the film itself (a rotating traveling car than combined VFX and physical FX had to be used at 5 in the morning for only an hour). James Wan would have been cursing in all languages if someone like that happened to him.
It is remarkable that the cast is made up mostly by television actors, such as Maxi Ghione or Norberto Gonzalo. How were the audiences approached and how did you finally selected the actors?
I had worked with Norberto in a series and I had a good impression of him. The character profile was for an adult actor, a man we created the minute that we saw him. Selecting Maxi Ghione was a suggestion made by Fer Díaz -Terrified’s producer-; I liked the idea of having a Mel-Gibson-like profile and when you see him on the film, he's Mel Gibson! And Demian Salomón came up with this story, given that he interpreted the same character in the short that gave origin to this film more than 15 years ago.
The FX work carried out by Marcos Berta is of a quality you don't see very often in Argentine genre cinema. What was working on that area like and what referents you had in mind when it came to thinking of these visual matters?
Relying on a good FX designer that complements a VFX designer is crucial. You don't want to let the 100% of effects be physical or digital. As I work on these two, I fully trusted on many of the ideas presented by Marcos, because I knew we could erase and replace. Marcos did a formidable job. He worked on many references to The Thing. He showed me amazing sketches from many films. Certain scenes were a big challenge, like the rotating traveling scene in the bathroom towards the end, which we studied with storyboards and little dioramas. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating, where you try to make the best that you can in the time that you have left. The key was to show great respect for the effects. Having done it in my last three films gave me the necessary timing to know where to place the camera and make it work.
Music has a big role when it comes to setting the film's general atmosphere and its effects. What elements did you take into account to design it and what referents did you use as starting point to execute it?
I admire Brian Tyler and Hans Zimmer a lot and they were some sort of unreachable horizon that, yet, was there. Pablo Isola's work, directing my ideas and correcting the sound was fundamental. He insisted on looking for elements that made music modern and that was how we introduced coupled guitars and electric textures. The search included guitar strings and metal and some piano that reminded us that we're watching a horror film. Terrified could be divided into four stories and each one has its own sound, its own instruments, its own leitmotivs. And then the music asks for permission to crash the party and take part in every story. Until, at the end, everything blends up and the music becomes much more anarchic and violent. In a few words, the search went towards something modern that doesn't betray the genre codes.
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