Haunted houses are cool, right? Every October all around the world and specifically in North America, “haunted” houses pop up where you can pay your ten bucks and walk through a labyrinth of themed rooms, at least one of which will feature someone running either at you or behind you while revving a chainsaw and it’s all great fun. But what about houses that are actually haunted? These are admittedly rarer to come by, especially if you’re like me and don’t believe in ghosts. Every now and then you’ll hear stories of houses where murders happened and the house became haunted (Amityville, etc.) and these translate easily to movie form with films like Poltergeist and today’s topic, We Are Still Here. We Are Still Here is an independent horror movie from first time writer/director Ted Geoghegan. Since this is an independent film you wouldn’t expect it to star anyone noteworthy, and it doesn’t really. The names and faces in this movie are recognizable if you either A) are super into indie horror or B) watched a lot of TV during the 70s, 80s, and 90s. The plot is straight-forward for the most part. Family moves into house, house turns out to be haunted, and so on. Does We Are Still Here hold its own as a haunted house movie? Critics sure thought so as this movie is boasts a 95% certified fresh rating, although audience scores are much lower at 49%. Obviously, spoilers ahead. You’ve been warned. The first thing to note in We Are Still Here is the acting. It isn’t great. A lot of the performances seemed pretty weak to me, but that’s not to say that there weren’t any good performances. Unfortunately, the two best performances in this movie come from Monte Markham as Dave McCabe and Larry Fessenden as Jacob Lewis. Both of these are bit parts, especially where Markham is concerned. He barely gets any screen time but every time he’s on he’s knocking it out of the park. The films leads – Barbara Crampton as Anne Sacchetti and Andrew Sensenig and Paul Sacchetti – are two of the most wooden performances I’ve ever seen, specifically Crampton’s. I get that her character is mourning the recent-ish death of her son, but her character just seems so…disconnected from the rest of the movie, and not in an “I’m grieving and am slowly shutting down because of it kind of way” but more in an “I’m not emotionally invested in this script so I’m not even trying” kind of way. The camerawork isn’t anything special either. Early in the movie it was kind of bothersome, but it seemed to get better as the movie went on so I guess it evens itself out to just being okay. Seriously, in the first few minutes of the movie I was convinced that they just had someone holding the camera and peaking around corners to get their shots, and I honestly would not be surprised to learn that that’s exactly what they did. The camera also bobbed a bit like whoever was holding it didn’t have a steady hand. As I’m sure you’ve gathered by (hopefully) reading my other blog posts and (even more hopefully) listening to our show, I hate it when movies do this. JUST HOLD THE CAMERA STILL! “What about the story?” I’m sure you’re asking. Well, let’s get into that. At first I thought We Are Still Here would be just another generic haunted house story. People move in, stuff happens, they either end up dead or moved out as ghosts look creepily through the window right before the credits roll. Thankfully, this movie deviates from that formula a little bit, but not enough to make it feel completely original. So Anne and Andrew move out of the city to this house in a town that apparently is only home to a small handful of people (more on that later) to escape the grief of their dead son. Almost immediately paranormal stuff starts happening. Loud thumps, shadowy whooshes across the camera’s field of view, and just having an overall spooky vibe as ghost movies tend to do. Ramping up the ghost stuff right away seemed odd to me, as stuff starts happening within the first ten or so minutes of the movie. Things kind of stop and go throughout until we get to the end of the second act. The end of the second act and the entire third act of this movie are legitimately pretty good, and that is mainly due to the fact that we actually get to see a good deal of the ghosts that are haunting the house. I know that in horror movies “less is more” and that holds true for this movie as well. We don’t see too much of the ghosts, but enough of them for it to be effective. The special effects for the ghosts were pretty cool too. Instead of them just being pale-looking, maybe semi-translucent people that do that weird thing with their mouth (you know what I’m talking about, where their jaw drops way lower than is possible and their mouths get all big?) there was actually some thought put into the design. To put it simply, the ghosts are basically ash people. I don’t really know of a better way to describe it, but they look really cool. So as I said, the ending of the second act through the rest of film is really where We Are Still Hereshines. It sucks that it takes as long as it does to really get good, but the movie is only an hour and a half long so it really isn’t that much time if you stop and think about it. Basically, we learn that there is some kind of great evil that lives under this house and every X amount of years the town has to sacrifice a family to appease whatever gods they awoke when they built it. At surface level it seems like this is just ripping off the whole “Indian burial ground curse” from Poltergeist, Pet Cemetery, and who knows what else, and honestly, it kind of is, with a little sprinkling of Children of the Corn in there for seasoning. Oddly enough, it kind of works for this movie. The entire third act is the town basically storming this house to kill the people inside because they catch wind that they might move out. This is the coolest part of the movie because we get to watch the ghosts just go ham on everyone (for reasons I won’t spoil, just in case you’ve read this far without having watched the movie.) There is one hiccup in the logic of the movie here that doesn’t quite make sense, but I can look past it due to the sheer carnage the third act offers. Overall, this movie wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad either. It was a case of a good idea hampered by subpar performances, but when you take into consideration that this is the director’s debut movie it was pretty good. I would put this in the same vein as The Babadook. Not super fantastic, but definitely a gem. If you have an hour and a half to kill (haha, kill) I would recommend We Are Still Here. P.S. At the time of this writing, We Are Still Here is still on Netflix, so you really have no reason to not watch it. Also, please leave a comment below and tell me what you thought of the movie! Did you agree with me or did you choose to be wrong? Are there movies you’d like me to write about? Let me know!
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