We Are Still Here (2015) – Horror | Drama
Directed by: Ted Geoghegan
Starring: Barbara Crampton and Andrew Sensenig
How I Watched: Blu-Ray
Best Line: “You’re not leaving here. You stay, you satisfy the darkness.”
A good haunted house movie is defined by the house itself. It has to use the house in a way that it stands as its own character, impacting the story in a way that you, as the viewer, do not want to be in that house. It has become a difficult feat in modern horror cinema, something that was taken to heart back in the 1970’s. The Shining and The Exorcist both used their surroundings to scare the living hell out of their audiences and first-time director Ted Geoghegan knows this well.
We Are Still Here‘s house is a prime example of how to use the setting as an effective character. The movie begins with the characters driving up to the house and then shots of the lonely rooms inside of its antiquated shell. Each great shot is dripping with dread and it really does not let up from these first few moments for the rest of the film. Setting this in the 1970’s was extremely effective as well. The absence of cell phones in We Are Still Here plays a big part in this story and I think Geoghegan knew this when he wrote it.
The cast is not especially incredible but it does not really need to be. Barbara Crampton plays the grieving and ever-optimistic mother role pretty well, carrying a few scenes that really needed a convincing performance. Andrew Sensinig does a convincing enough job as her husband and Lisa Marie plays a pretty damn good hippie with self-professed mental gifts. Monte Markham has a particularly good turn as the film’s menacing antihero, growling his way through some pretty dark scenes.
We Are Still Here‘s standout performance though, comes from Larry Fessenden. Evoking a stoner Jack Nicholson from The Shining, Fessenden grabs the screen from his first appearance as Jacob Lewis, husband of Lisa Marie’s bohemian telepath. He seems immediately lovable, providing the film with its first hints of levity from the opening credits. His ultimate scene though, is one of the most intense in the movie, reminiscent of The Exorcist at its most extreme. This scene will cause you to grit your teeth and sink into the safety of your couch and was really the standout of the film, for me at least.
Though We Are Still Here is set in the 70’s, the movie feels like it was filmed in that decade as well. It seems purposely low budget, not dirty, but not very polished. Scenes are awash in a sea of grey and earthy tones, making the red in the especially gory scenes stand out that much more. CGI is used sparingly, Geoghegan springing instead for physically acted frights. There are not many jump scares to speak of and darkness is used cleverly by the film’s cinematographer. The score is not overbearing and its electronic elements remind me a lot of Fulci’s films, as well as Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.
I think why I enjoyed this movie so much was due to how they used the house. One of the most repeated quotes by multiple characters in We Are Still Here is, “This house needs a family,” suggesting ultimately, that the house itself is an active character. This idea has frightened me since I saw The Shining for the first time, imagining that an inanimate object can bend the will of humans. It gives me shudders and this film carries this idea out masterfully.
We Are Still Here definitely isn’t perfect. It precariously rides the fine line between B-Horror throwback and haunted house hall of fame. Some may understandably find the low budget schlock angle off-putting and even a bit silly. What the film lacks in polish though, it returns in a deliciously vicious mountain of dread. It takes quite a bit of love and dedication to make a haunted house movie this well, and to learn that this is director Ted Geoghegan’s debut is very impressive. I really can’t wait to see what he has for us next.
Final Score: 3.5/4
Similar Films: The Innkeepers, The Evil Dead, The Shining