We Are Still Here (2015)
I mentioned it before and I’m sure I’ll mention it another 1,000 times. I am not a fan of ghost stories. Especially this new slew of ghost stories that all seem to be cut from the same fabric. The INSIDIOUS franchise and all the films it spawned are too formulaic for me. These films are full of choreographed jump scares and silly back stories. So when I came across WE ARE STILL HERE, I was more than a little weary but was told this film broke the current ghost movie formula and had a lot of fun doing so. Written and directed by Ted Geoghegan, from a concept by Richard Griffin, WE ARE STILL HERE has proven to be a stand out film among a pretty lackluster year for horror releases.
WE ARE STILL HERE starred the always fantastic and beautiful Barbara Crampton and Andrew Sensenig (he’s beautiful too, in his own way) as Anne and Paul Sacchetti. They’re a married couple who moved to the New England country from the city. Immediately you’ll sense that Anne and Paul have a strained relationship. They barely said a word to each other in the car or in their new home, and even for the 1970s, in which this film was set, they drank a lot. We soon learn that their son recently died in a car crash. That’s the main reason for their move-they needed a new start. Anne and Paul bought this gorgeous old house for a song and promptly moved in. Almost immediately they started hearing strange noises. It sounded like someone was running around in the house at nighttime and they also heard people talking. When Paul went in the basement, he was overwhelmed with the smell of smoke. Some creepy shit. It wasn’t long before pictures started falling off the walls and doors slammed shut. Anne believed the spirit of their dead son, Bobby, had followed them to their new home, but Paul was a little more hesitant to jump to such a conclusion.
After a few more weird days and nights of odd occurrences and a strange visit from their neighbors, Dave (Monte Markham) and Cat (Connie Neer), Anne decided to invite their friends from the city to stay with them for the weekend. Jacob (Larry Fessenden) and May (Lisa Marie) are your free-thinking 1970s types. Jacob enjoyed tree trunk-sized joints, and May is gifted when it comes to psychic matters. May not only felt something was wrong with and in the house the second she entered it, but she also noticed how strange all the townsfolk acted around them. May warned Anne and Paul not to stay another night in the house, and after a, let’s call it, unsuccessful seance, things went from bad to worse. The house had a lot of history behind it and it seemed like history does repeat itself inside-at least inside the house’s four walls.
I’ll be blunt here. I loved the hell out of this film. I loved every second of it. The film was set in the 1970s, but Geoghegan didn’t constantly smack us over the head with the setting. Not only does Geoghegan nail the scenery, but he perfectly captured the tone and atmosphere of a 1970s-era horror film. There was an uneasy atmosphere established from the opening scene that kept you squirming in your seat. Even as Anne and Paul drove to their home, their estrangement from each other was difficult to watch. They were both likable characters who went through a terrible tragedy and you’ll find yourself rooting for them to get back to a normal existence. What really helped establish the tone and mood was the soundtrack. The music, by Wojciech Golczewski, beautifully captured every scene and added to the lingering dread and violence to come. Golczewski’s music was also punctuated with moments of levity that suggested there might yet be hope for Anne and Paul. Yeah, the soundtrack was fantastic.
But what really made this film work was the acting. WE ARE STILL HERE was what you might call a “slow burn” film. The story took its time developing the characters and gave the viewers time to actually care about them. We also got a lot of hints about the house’s history. When Dave and Cat visited, Dave gave them the chilling background of the house. It wasn’t until the final act, though, that Geoghegan opened the gates and colored the walls red. The ending seemed all the more violent and gory due to the first three-quarters of the film being so serene and more understated. Huge kudos to all the actors involved, especially Barbara Crampton and Larry Fessenden, who is himself a filmmaker. Everyone put in great performances, but these two do a really spectacular job.
Geoghegan also managed to make everything feel new and fresh. This is, at the end of the day, a ghost story, but Geoghegan put in some new and creative elements that really elevated the film. No spoilers here, but there was a Lovecraftian element that I really loved. Geoghegan also didn’t rely on cheap jump scares. There are a few here, but the film didn’t solely rely on them to make the film “scary.” The entire atmosphere, as mentioned above, was creepy and at times, suffocating.
Take it from someone who generally doesn’t enjoy ghost stories, WE ARE STILL HERE is not your typical ghost story (especially your typical “modern” ghost story). Great acting, fantastic writing and directing, and a soundtrack that brought it all together make WE ARE STILL HERE one of the most enjoyable and surprising films I’ve seen all year. With all the hoopla and fanfare over IT FOLLOWS and THE BABADOOK, WE ARE STILL HERE is another film that deserves the same attention. Don’t miss this one.
Plot: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Gore: 6 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer