2015’s We Are Still Here, directed by Ted Geoghegan, received its UK premier at FrightFest 2015 in August and was described by The Ape on this site as “a proper horror film”.
What the heck does that mean then? A ‘proper horror movie’ has to be scary of course, it also has to be gory, it has to have a good strong monster (human or otherwise), innovative use of camerawork and editing, some excellent performances that really sell the fear, it has to have a fresh and original premise and the special effects have to be practical; there’s no question that Rob Bottin’s Norris Creature from The Thing is far more threatening than 1,000 CGI vampires from 2007’s I am Legend.
We Are Still Here definitely manages to tick most of these boxes.
The film focuses on middle-aged married couple Anne and Paul Sachetti, who have recently lost their teenage son Bobby in a tragic car accident. They move to the snowy, barren landscape of rural New England and upon entering their new home, Anne begins to feel the presence of Bobby, lifting her temporarily out of her depression.
Of course the spirit she feels is something far more malevolent, and as the townspeople make the couple feel less than welcome, it’s revealed that whatever is living in their new home has some kind of diabolical pact with the village.
It’s a gripping story, one that keeps you second-guessing all the way through. It’s also one imbued with an incredible sadness that engenders so much sympathy with the couple. Anne is wonderfully portrayed by Barbara Crampton, who is going through a second reign of Scream Queen dominance (from Re-Animator, From Beyond & Chopping Mall in the 80s, to her recent appearance in the excellent You’re Next). Her performance as the grieving mother is a career best, never straying into mawkish heart-tugging manipulation, just subtly delivering her pain through expression.
We Are Still Here also builds up its tension in an equally subtle and understated manner. The clues to the horrors that await in the basement are laid out gradually, through creepy exchanges with the townsfolk. The film’s jump-scares are imaginatively timed, Geoghegan chooses to cut on the very next frame after the scare, making for a surprisingly playful rhythm.
But then the shit hits the fan. The shit, the blood, the brains and the guts. It’s an incredibly bold move, as soon as the first iron poker is self-administered through an eyeball, the film takes a gleefully gory turn. The understated mystery becomes a full on Herschell Gordon Lewis style bloodbath and it’s hilarious fun.
The film does have some inconsistencies; Lisa Marie plays a psychic friend, but shows very little range beyond being ‘your deeply annoying winsome psychic friend’, and the film’s colour palette is very washed out, which means the charcoal broiled monsters are difficult to distinguish amongst the action.
However, We Are Still Here is a solid old school horror movie, with a strong premise, phenomenal editing and has a refreshing take on horror movie protagonists. It’s rare that a married, middle-aged couple get to drive the story and enjoy such a satisfying arc, so for that reason alone it’s one to be treasured. 4/5
For more spine-chilling thrills to watch over Halloween, check out our complete 31 days of horror movies list.