Monday, January 9, 2012

A Frank Review of "Terrified!" (1963)

The Short Version? Pre-Slasher movie
What Is It? Thriller
Who Is In It? Nobody
Should I See It? Probably not.

I wish Terrified! was a better movie. It has an interesting premise, with acting decent for its time and budget. There is an aficionado of fear conducting unscientific experiments in a small town. From simple games of chicken on the highway to burying a man alive in cement, our killer relishes the terror he inflicts. The guy is sharp looking in a neat black suit and tie with black gloves and mask concealing everything but his eyes. Between his distinctive looks and obsessions, the killer serves as a prototype for the slashers of a decade on, but this guy also enjoys verbally taunting and manipulating his prey.

There are three primary characters pursued by the killer. Rod Lauren plays Ken, a brooding James Dean type fascinated by the effects of terror on society. Ken offers a few heavy-handed monologues on the matter, which nonetheless elevates the material above the usual mindless b-movie nonsense. Lauren was a one hit wonder whose life took several tragic turns, including a murder accusation and his later suicide. Steve Drexel plays David, a workaday guy vying for the affections of a shared love interest. Tracy Olsen plays Marge, the lovely young woman torn between the two men. Ken is given a few flashback moments to round out his character, but for the most part, none develop beyond that outline.

Most of the running time is spent in a ghost town converted into one large haunted house, through which the killer teases and chases Ken. This is fun at times, but goes on too long, and could use a few more bodies to divide the killer's time. From there, a few minor complications arise, the killer's true identity is revealed, and after wasting a quarter of an hour, everything wraps in a matter of minute. Not a typo.

Someone could do a really nifty remake of this picture. It needs more characters and a lot more red herrings to jerk the audience around about the killer's identity, but without it feeling like a wimpy cheat. A few more bloodless murders could be played out instead of just teased, and a few more armchair psychological/philosophical rants could be fun. Until then, this is just a dated, thrill-less thriller with a nifty antagonist but not a lot to do.

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