US | 2015 | Directed by Ted Geoghegan
Logline: A couple, grieving the loss of their teenage son, move into a rural home not knowing it is haunted by vengeful spirits harboured by the townsfolk.
Haunted house movies are a dime a dozen, and most of them are about as scary as a prod on the arm in the middle of the day. But every now and again a director gets it bang on, or at least manages a half-decent atmosphere and a few cheap thrills. The haunted house’s cinema heyday was during the 70s and early 80s, a time when the clichés weren’t quite as hokey, the art direction was more authentic-looking, the music dripped with genuine Mooginess, and the special effects were all done with prosthetics and engineered in front of the camera.
The haunted house sceptre was brandished by the late, great Lucio Fulci, an Italian who drenched his movies in atmospherics and an oneiric sensibility. His presence - in particular The House by the Cemetery - is draped all over Ted Geoghegan’s feature debut, and it’s this element that shines darkest. Geoghagen is an established screenwriter now turning his talents to the camera, and his eye for the lingering moodiness is most apparent.
Anne (Barbara Crampton) and Paul (Andrew Sensenig) have moved into a creaky old two-storey home in the snow-laden wintery expanse of late 70s New England. Anne still feels the presence of her dead son, Bobby, close by, whilst Paul would rather pour himself another Scotch. Before some friends turn up for the weekend, their neighbours drop by for a howdy-doody. Dave (Monte Markham) and his wife Maddie (Susan McCabe) can’t help but mention the house’s dark history, the trouble and bloodshed, and then they’re on their way.
Jacob (horror indie veteran Larry Fessenden) and May (Lisa Marie - yes, that Lisa Marie) arrive. May is a medium, and Jacob is a stoner. Nice combo. Jacob’s son Harry (Michael Patrick Nicholson) and his girlfriend Daniella (Kelsea Dakota) are due to turn up too. The house needs the company.
Turns out the house wants more than just good conversation, it demands flesh and blood to sate its evil hunger, and it will burn like hell if it doesn’t get what it wants. Cue: Joe the electrician (Marvin Patterson) getting more than he bargained for when he turns up to check out the dodgy wiring. That basement isn’t hot because the boiler is playing up, that basement is hot because the embers of fury have been smoldering for thirty years and are ready to ignite once again.
I’m not entirely sure just how much humour Geoghegan intended to be plucked from his movie, but in the full cinema I watched it in the audience were at first sniggering with mirth and eventually hooting with hilarity. It became apparent that the retro elements of We Are Still Here were being devoured as unintentionally comedic, just as a modern audience unaccustomed to Fulci’s narrative and visual stylistics would probably receive his movies now.
We Are Still Here wasn’t the straight-as-an-arrow horror I was anticipating (like Ti West’s The House of the Devil), but after gauging the pitch black comic edge, and watching it with an appreciative full house, it was a most entertaining carnival ghost ride with some effective thrills and spills.