Halloween Die-ary: October 25, 2018

“That sounds miserable,” said my wife when I told her the idea.

“Right?” I said enthusiastically. “I’m really hoping to freak myself out.”

All month I’ve been hearing about this Argentinean horror movie called Terrified (Aterrados) that just came out on Shudder, a horror streaming service that I’ve subbed to ever since they brought horror host Joe Bob Briggs back to TV. The movie’s really supposed to live up to its name.

So I decided to give it a shot, and in a way that maximized its effect. I was going to watch it alone, near midnight, in my basement.

I know. I visit creepy places all the time without taking a bat to my eye. But I can definitely freak myself out under the right conditions. And those right conditions are almost always being home alone overnight in my own house. I’ve written an entire article on why that is that you can read here, so let’s skip all that and head to the basement.

Not every basement is spooky, but every basement is spooky at night. And that’s mine. Long-time readers will know about the basement in my previous house, all dirt floor and rough rock walls making it more dungeon than storage place for unused exercise equipment. The basement in my new house is…more boring than that.

It’s bifurcated into two large rooms separated by a door at the base of the steps. One side is basementy with shelves and tables, the hot water heater, our laundry machines. The other is more like a nicely kept garage with three painted concrete walls, a fourth of dark wood paneling, and a thin carpet. We have a TV down there, some couches. Our kids’ larger toys. The dog crate. An unused piece of exercise equipment. It feels like the kind of a room I’d watch marathons of horror movies during my college years. It just needs some movie posters on the wall and a booze fridge.

Don’t get me wrong. There are elements in this basement that can be spooky under the right conditions. A padlocked outside door leading to a bulkhead could house untold terrors behind it. A single tiny window at ground level is at the perfect spot to see a pair of dirty boots standing there in the grass. And then there’s the doorway to the other room. Sometimes I wait for something to walk through it or listen for a voice through the thin paneling that separates the two rooms.

I ventured down near midnight and threw myself on the old couch. My family was in bed and asleep two floors above me. My only protection from fright was a dirty martini. I briefly thought about shutting off the lights to watch the movie, but decided against it, as just the anticipation was starting to unnerve me.

Most of the scares in the first 15 minutes of the movie were sound-based…which didn’t bode well for me. Keep in mind I’m in a basement with a radon mitigation system, a humidifier, and a hot water heater, all of which hiss, click, and hum at various times.

Then the first big scare of the movie happened. And it was a great one. Although it didn’t freak me out. More like it mesmerized me. My head thought, “That’s truly frightening,” while my body didn’t react (it might have automatically reached out for the stem of my martini glass).

And the movie kept going that way. Really an impressive flick. It’s concept was great: A haunted neighborhood. Well, three houses in a neighborhood, two beside each other and one across the street. Various creepy things happen in each that leave them emptied for a group of paranormal investigators to split up and move in for a night. The imagery in this movie is absolutely nightmarish. I could see why it was getting the reaction I’d witnessed all month on the socials. Some great shocks, too.

The odd thing is…I never got freaked. I even go so comfortable that I turned off the lights to try watching it in almost total darkness. That’s not a rip on Terrified. More like a rip on my husk of a soul, I guess. I mean, the movie had some flaws. I didn’t know who I was supposed to empathize with until close to the end. And the ending is relatively unsatisfying. But overall this was a strong, strong flick.

I don’t know why I didn’t freak. Maybe it was a really strong martini. Maybe the closed-captions gave me a little distance from the terror. Maybe having the family there, even two floors above me, was enough of a buffer. Maybe it was just the pacing, as it didn’t have many of those drawn out, heavily music cued scenes that American horror movies rely on so much for tension.

But maybe my basement is much more of a comfortable place that I realize…which is good news because I’ll be refinishing it into my new study here soon, so that we can turn my upstairs study into a nursery for the new baby.

It’s good to know that I can put with interdimensional South American demons down there.