Studio: Dark Sky Films
Director: Ted Geoghegan
Writer: Ted Geoghegan
Producer: Travis Stevens
Stars: Barbara Crampton, Andrew Sensenig, Larry Fessenden, Lisa Marie, Monte Markham
A grieving couple moves into an isolated New England home that hides a small town’s dark secret.
Devastated by the unexpected death of their adult son Bobby, Anne and Paul Sacchetti retreat to a secluded old home in the snowy New England countryside of 1979 for emotional healing and a fresh start. When things start going bump in the night, Anne thinks the spirit of her son has rejoined his family inside the former funeral home. That is, until new neighbor Dave shares some local flavor over whiskey about the house’s haunted history hinting at a hungry darkness still skulking in the basement.
After Anne summons hippie friends May and Jacob to help with her supernatural sleuthing, a séance inadvertently summons a spirit too malevolent to be the deceased son. What happens next digs up a centuries-old secret that the locals kept contained in the house, until that secret became reborn in blood as a deadly threat to the Sacchettis, to the house, and to the entire town.
Lather on layers of shifty townspeople in a sleepy hamlet eyeing outsiders oddly, cellar-dwelling spirits tipping photo frames while inspiring nightmares, and local legends telling tales of curses, corpse-trading, and deadly anniversary dates, and you would be excused for dismissing “We Are Still Here” as a treasure trove of tropes from horror movies past. Yet while writer/director Ted Geoghegan’s first feature bears the shadow of a freshman filmmaker reveling overmuch in the influence of his idols, the reverence filters through confidence and through competence to turn “We Are Still Here” into a worthy contemporary chiller standing as something more meaningful than empty copycat homage.
The film’s first steps pave a path for heavy eyelids. Beyond burning slowly, the wick occasionally flickers out completely. A wintry Massachusetts setting establishes infectious initial atmosphere and then overlong lingering on extended shots of battered barns and babbling brooks start wearing thin the welcome. “We Are Still Here” wants its build to whisper quietly, but many moments are missing hidden menace that might pull mounting suspense tight.
That rope sags looser with dialogue heavy on expository musings and acting tripping a step here and there. Lisa Marie is a touch too spaced as a sensitive spiritualist and Larry Fessenden tugs harder than needed on rubber face expressions when it comes time to mimic demonic possession and Hell’s unleashed fury. There’s also the matter of unconnected dots left behind by a bare backstory certain to elicit nonplussed reactions from those wishing for a detailed explanation of the evil.
Yet “We Are Still Here” turns enough corners when it starts sleepwalking astray to end up facing firmly forward. Barbara Crampton makes sympathy come easy with the perpetually puffy eyes of a mother in mourning and Monte Markham is outstanding as a duplicitous town denizen hiding something sinister up his sleeve. Their performances in particular overcome instances of unconvincing over-animation and spotty character motivations.
By the time the movie marches excitedly into its crimson-colored conclusion, renewed purpose in every element from Wojciech Golczewski’s haunting score to plentiful visual thrills reinvigorate the energy with fierce determination. An explosive third act is drenched in as much blood as the first two are deafened by echoes of Lucio Fulci. The finale becomes so gloriously gory that it serves as a wink (or apology) for fooling you into a false sense of being bogged down by boredom.
Trudge up the turtle track of the first two-thirds and “We Are Still Here” rewards with a frenzied flurry of force upon hitting its stride down the back slope. It’s a hard climb to the point where the crest meets the climax, but the film looks fantastic and the scare tactics punch hard, trampling underfoot a previous pace prompting the pulling out of a pillow.
NOTE: There is a brief mid-credits scene.
Review Score: 65