We Are Still Here (2015)
Dir. Ted Geoghegan
Starring: Barbara Crampton,
Andrew Sensenig, Larry Fessenden, Lisa Marie, Monte Markham
Review By Greg Klymkiw
There's always room for a solid "things that go bump in the night" haunted house picture, so long as the proceedings are handled with proficiency and a minimum degree of stupidity. Ted Geoghan's first feature film We Are Still Here succeeds on both counts.
Yes, we've been down this road before. The Sacchettis are an attractive, well-to-do couple still grieving from the accidental death of their only son. They've chosen flight from familiar surroundings to heal and move into a gorgeous, old house in the wide open spaces of Inbred-ville, New England. Situated on a gorgeous estate, isolated, but not too far away from a nearby village (full of inbreds), the couple appear to have nailed the real estate find of the century.
We all know that when an old, long-unoccupied house in the middle of nowhere goes for a steal, there's bound to be some ectoplasmic shenanigans going on. Luckily, we are not the Sacchettis. We are the audience. We know better, which is always a good deal for us, yes?
Anne (played by the always-delectable Barbara Crampton of Re-Animator fame) feels her son's spirit is still with them and that he's followed them to their new digs. Paul (Andrew Sensenig), being the lowly male of the equation is far more practical about such matters, but he sensitively humours her and agrees to a visit from their longtime spiritualist friends. May (played by the gorgeous Lisa Marie of Vampira fame in Ed Wood and unceremoniously booted by director Tim Burton in favour of the ratty-mopped Helena Bonham Carter) is psychic. Her hubby Jacob (the always wonderful character actor and Habit director Larry Fessenden, looking more like Jack Nicholson in The Shining with every picture) is a dope-smoking old hippie with new-agey powers in crystals and seances.
It's always convenient when bereaved couples know spiritualist couples. It makes horror movies so much more lively, yes?
Of course, what would a New England community of inbreds be without a couple of real whoppers of inbreds? Creepy old neighbour Dave McCabe (Monte Markham) and his nutty wife Maddie (Susan Gibney) pop by for a friendly visit wherein we get all the dope on the Sacchettis' new home.
It's an old funeral parlour, situated on unhallowed ground and formerly run by a family who pilfered bodies and sold them to a nearby medical college. Or so we're told.
Yes, it's always convenient when bereaved couples move into old funeral parlours on unhallowed ground formerly run by inbreds who sold bodies to be sliced and diced by med students. It's even more convenient that the inbreds might actually have been innocent of this crime and murdered by the inbred townspeople.
Are you with me? Good. This is what our impish filmmaker has laid out for the mega-scares to follow. Though screenwriter Geoghegan doesn't really go beyond the stock tropes of most ghostly melodramas, Geoghegan the director does go through some mighty impressive gymnastics of helmsmanship to knock us on our collective butts all the way through this effective chiller.
|Babe-O-Licious Barbara Crampton as HOT now|
as she was in 1985's RE-ANIMATOR. Hubba-Hubba!
The real star of the film is Canadian cinematographer Karim Hussain who superbly handles Geoghegan's morbidly creepy mise-en-scene with considerable aplomb. The camera feels like a character unto itself - its gorgeous compositions and lighting make us feel like something genuinely unholy is actively observing the proceedings whilst occasionally making us feel like we're seeing stuff that may or may not be there. Hussain moves the camera so deftly and subtly that we're often chilled to the bone - not just by the gorgeously captured winter climes surrounding the house, but by the manner in which it glides and/or settles upon the dank details of the house and especially, the basement. The chilling musical score and alternately shivery, heart-attack-inducing sound design are also brilliantly rendered, giving us ample creeps and shocks.
Especially in the basement.
Oh yes! 'Tis always convenient for a haunted house to have a clammy basement with a boiler on the fritz causing temperatures to rise and a strange wall that supposedly has nothing behind it.
Then, there are the ghastly apparitions and, the blood.
They are plenty ghastly.
And yes, there is plenty of blood. (And thanks to a lovely Straw Dogs-inspired climax, the picture racks up a very impressive body count.)
All that said, if you're looking for a bit more meat on the bones of the bereaved couple horror scenario, you're not going to find it here. There's potential to have steered the film into the complex, layered territory of Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now, but Geoghegan seems content to keep us in the shock-o-rama territory of his more clear influence, the grand Italian shock-meister Lucio (The Beyond, The House by the Cemetery) Fulci.
I accept this.
The movie forced me to soil myself on numerous occasions. Luckily, I've learned long ago to always wear adult diapers for my sojourns into the cinematic territory of haunted house thrillers. Thankfully, this one is up there with those pictures keen on skilfully delivering all the visceral thrills and chills which, ultimately, are the hallmark for all fine horror pictures.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: *** 3-Stars
We Are Still Here from Dark Sky and Raven Banner enjoyed its Canadian Premiere at the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal. For further info, visit the fest's website HERE.