We Are Still Here Movie Review
Written by ZigZag
Released by Dark Sky Films
Written and directed by Ted Geoghegan
2015, 84 minutes, Rated R
Released theatrically and on VOD on June 5th, 2015
Barbara Crampton as Anne
Andrew Sensenig as Paul
Lisa Marie as May
Larry Fessenden as Jacob
Monte Markham as Dave
Michael Patrick as Harry
Kelsea Dakota as Daniella
Marvin Patterson as Joe
As the film opens, Anne and Paul are moving into a small New England community in hopes of putting their lives back together following the sudden death of their son, Bobby. Anne has been hit particularly hard by the loss and insists she can feel their boy’s spirit inside the new home. Paul does his best to keep Anne from shutting down emotionally, and agrees to her request that they invite company up for the weekend. Their friends May and Jacob are tuned in to the spiritual side of life, and Anne believes they might be able to contact Bobby and set his soul to rest. Unfortunately, the house is host to something much darker that runs in a thirty-year cycle, and once contacted by the new owners and their guests, things quickly spiral out of control.
Contemporary mainstream genre films continue to wrongfully support the notion that a loud noise “jump scare” equals legitimate terror. The idea suggests that if audiences bounce in their seats repeatedly, even if they fear someone has crashed a pair of cymbals behind their heads, then the picture must be successfully scary. Movies like Annabelle, Ouija and the Insidious franchise excel at manipulating the sound mix to ludicrous levels in order to reach this false quota of reactions. On the opposite side of the equation, titles like House of the Devil, It Follows and The Babadook attempt something different, by working to earn their audience’s fearful response by creating a sense of dread. We Are Still Here falls in line with this quiet slow-burn approach and pulls inspiration from the works of legendary Italian filmmaker Lucio Fulci, particularly House by the Cemetery (1981).
We Are Still Here is a frustrating movie that looks gorgeous (thanks to cinematographer Karim Hussain, Hobo with a Shotgun) and has some promising ideas, but cannot overcome the trappings of a ponderous script. Writer Ted Geoghegan (Nikos the Impaler) makes his directorial debut with a mess of a story that runs the “Haunted House Playbook” step-by-step, but it collapses under scrutiny. Every imaginable cliché is lovingly crammed into the first two thirds before shifting gears for a splat-fest finale that belongs in a different movie. It feels like Geoghegan ran out of ideas and decided to end things with an opera of violence that would coerce audiences into forgetting all of the missed opportunities of the previous hour. Don’t get me wrong, the last ten minutes are an absolute blast, but that doesn’t erase the long slog it took to get there.
The always-welcome Barbara Crampton (From Beyond) stars as Anne, the grieving mother who believes her son is trying to communicate from “the other side”. She carries this picture with ease and it is nice to see her given a role of such substance, though it does echo her performance in Castle Freak many years prior. Andrew Sensenig has the challenge of playing the straight man surrounded by eccentric personalities as Anne’s husband, Paul. He does a fine job with the material given, but is easily the weakest character in the film. Larry Fessenden (Beneath) and Lisa Marie (Sleepy Hollow) arrive as Jacob and May, the spiritual friends that give our protagonists a much needed energy boost about halfway through the picture. Fessenden is instantly likeable and injects just enough humor into the role to keep things moving, and displays a wicked streak following his character’s impromptu séance. Lisa Marie is finally given a generous amount of screen time and she makes the most of it, with a solid character that is immediately engaging.
Monte Markham is the screenplay’s exposition dump site as Dave, the neighbor that shows up to explain things with answers to unasked questions. The exaggerated performance aims for creepy but scores a few giggles because he is completely out of place within the surrounding material. It feels like a goof on the traditional doomsday prophet character once popular in the genre, but it is a sloppy move to embrace the genre and slap it at the same time. Not all the supporting cast members are fleshed out, particularly the archetypes that are introduced moments before being killed off. It’s a shame to see these characters wasted, as they are included only to pad the anemic running time (75 minutes before extended closing credits).
The reveal of the spectral beings is quite nice and the over-the-top violence is quite rewarding (it earned the film an extra half-star in this review), as I found myself wanting to kill everything in the movie too. I really wanted to like We Are Still Here, and parts of it are entertaining, but there are too many plot holes for the story to hold water. If, for example, the house is known to cause problems every thirty years, why do the locals not simply burn it down? And why would your son’s ghost inhabit a house none of you have previously visited? Geoghegan is mining the same atmospheric territory as director Ti West (The Innkeepers), but leaves the competition in the dust when it comes to ending a movie. That being said, I think both filmmakers would benefit from a...ghost writer. We Are Still Here will likely score with audiences because of the ending, but I encourage fans to check their expectations at the door.