Like many independent horror movies today, We Are Still Here didn't have a wide release. It's up to me and others like to me to assure you its worth your time to sit down and watch. So is it?
The short answer is yes. We Are Still Here is several movies wrapped into one. It's a haunted house story. It's a compelling emotional journey of a couple dealing with the death of their son. It's a thoughtful homage from a filmmaker who obviously enjoys the horror genre to movies of decades past, most notably Lucio Fulci's The House by the Cemetery – and after all that, it ultimately doesn't take itself so seriously that you're forbidden to point a finger and laugh at it or along with it. In fact, in the DVD commentary, writer and first-time Director Ted Geoghegan pretty much gives you permission to do so.
Too many movie reviews give away so much of the movie that by the time you watch, you're already fully aware of what to expect. Call me crazy, but I think that kind of spoils the joy of actually watching along. But here's what I can give you, without ruining the entire emotional and thrilling journey.
The Sacchettis are trying to escape the tragic loss of their teenage son, Bobby, by fleeing the city life and moving to the country. It's a pretty common theme of horror films, but where We Are Still Here differs is that Anne (Barbara Crampton, Re-Animator) and Paul (Andrew Sensenig, W.) are a middle aged couple, more secure in their world views, less likely to fall prey to the silliness that arises from traditional haunted house tropes.
Still, moving to a big house in the country when clearly suffering some degree of depression, such as Anne, it's not only natural to hear things that go bump in the night, but for them to linger over into the daylight hours and for your imagination to run away with you. So while we're getting to know Anne and her sorrow, we'll be wondering how much of what she's experiencing is real and how much is psychological.
Her husband, Paul, is also at that crossroads with us, and since he's closer to the situation, it's a little harder for him to swallow the idea she may be experiencing something supernatural. After all, he hasn't purchased a movie ticket (or DVD). Even so, when the neighbors drop by sharing stories of house's and that of its original family, even he can't help but feel a little uneasy (hint: it ain't normal!).
So when Anne wants to invite her friend, May (Lisa Marie, The Lords of Salem), and her husband, Jacob (Larry Fessenden, The Brave One), up for the weekend (and possibly a a spiritual reading on the house), Paul gives into the idea. It may not be a favorite, but he's open to it because he loves his wife.
It's at this point the whole movie shifts focus. Until this point, it's been more of an emotional and psychological journey carried by the strong performance of Crampton as the leading lady. While her role doesn't lessen in any way, the addition of Fessenden lends a touch of The Shining's Jack Nicholson to it, tossing in a bit of the absurd. It also gives Sensenig a chance to open up his performance and as these four characters interact, the film enters somewhat of a new genre moving forward.
And that's almost all you're going to get from me. The reveals are clever and fresh, unique in a movie only lasting 84 minutes. Despite the short length, it never feels as though you are slighted in any way, with just enough time spent on every avenue to give to satisfy before wearing thin. For those of you worried that ghost stories just aren't your thing, keep in mind this is an homage and a genre bender. As such, when the switch is flipped, if you're looking for a little blood on your kitchenware, you're apt to find it. You're welcome.
The ending is ambiguous. Life is often that way, so why not leave this world open for interpretation, as well? But make sure you don't turn away before the credits, as the background offers answers for a lot of questions you may have had along the way.
We Are Still Here is a surprising gem. With a great cast and a compelling story, it stretches the boundaries of the haunted house story, doesn't rely on titillation for its narrative, pokes fun at itself and borrows generously from past classics. By the time you're done watching, you'll have a big smile on your face and a tear in your eye, and you'll be damn glad for both.
We Are Still Here is Rated R and available Oct. 6 on both Blu-Ray and DVD. Special features include movie commentary with Writer/Director Ted Geoghegan and Producer Travis Stevens, behind the scenes footage and commentary, the original trailer, the original teaser and three additional movie trailers.
Check back tomorrow for a review with Barbara Crampton, and all month long for more Halloween goodness!