“THIS HOUSE NEEDS A FAMILY.”
Directed by: Ted Geoghegan
Written by: Ted Geoghegan
Starring: Barbara Crampton, Andrew Sensenig, Larry Fessenden, Lisa Maria, Monte Markham
Music: Wojciech Golczewski
Cinematography: Karim Hussain
Set in 1979, Anne (Crampton, Re-Animator) is recovering from the recent death of her son Bobby. She and her husband Paul (Sensenig, Upstream Color) move from the city into a house in New England hoping for a fresh start. After witnessing some strange phenomena, Anne feels that Bobby’s spirit is with them and her self-proclaimed psychic friends join to attempt to contact him. As things get stranger, they begin to unravel the dark history of their new home and town.
I’m a big fan of ghost stories and haunted house tales; they’re really the only sub-genres that I find actually creepy anymore, although only a select few are done right. We Are Still Here started out very promising, emphasizing atmosphere and slowly built up tension. There were some genuinely eerie moments early on; brief glimpses of movement, sounds of footsteps, those shots of characters being totally unaware of the silhouette in the background while they perform something menial. Those types of horror tropes always unnerved me. I thought I was in store for a 70’s style ghost movie, unfortunately the story quickly changed pace.
What started out as a simple haunted house film soon begins to become convoluted by a poorly handled expansion of the plot. I’m all for ambiguity, I find the unknown far more terrifying, but there’s a difference between a story being mysterious and having a slew of plot holes. <>A bit of a spoiler here, but there’s another entity in the house. It’s relationship with the ghosts and town’s people doesn’t really make sense, and neither do the actions of either of them. I feel the like filmmakers couldn’t really think of a logical way to give purpose to all of the violence that ensues, so they just don’t bother explaining anything<>.
As the spirits get more screen time and blood gets shed, the film abandons all the creepiness and atmosphere it built in the beginning and sacrifices subtly for guts and gore. In regards to acting, it seemed a bit stiff at times, especially Sensenig, and some of the characters slipped into stock status. Karim Hussain (Hobo With a Shotgun, Antiviral)’s cinematography is as usual gorgeous. Even with the film becoming more fast paced at end he’s still a master at setting tone. I really loved the extended still shots of the house and exteriors, they totally capture the New England rural character. Regardless of the fact that I felt this movie would’ve worked better with a more minimalistic approach, the gore was spectacular. Loads of ultra-bloody practical effects.
If only the film continued with the tone it set at the beginning and didn’t try to complicate things or slaughter people in a gruesome manner. While I must say it is entertaining and beautifully shot, it wasn’t at all frightening after the twenty minutes mark. And once you start to put together the mythos behind the house and the town, you realize that none of it really makes sense.