Advertisement

SXSW Film Review: We Are Still Here

D+

Directed by

  • Ted Geoghegan

Starring

  • Barbara Crampton
  • Andrew Sensenig
  • Lisa Marie

Release Year

  • 2015
Advertisement

sxsw 2015 coverage SXSW Film Review: We Are Still HereDespite its outcome, you can’t disregard the love writer/director Ted Geoghegan put into his debut feature, We Are Still Here. His affinity for late ‘70s/early ‘80s horror is evident throughout the film, found in the simplicity of its story, cheesy exposition, hammy performances, and haunted house setting. It’s become a rite of passage for horror filmmakers to pay homage to the films that inspired them (The House of the Devil, It Follows, etc.), and Geoghegan offers up his tribute without holding back.

While this reverence is initially endearing, it proves detrimental. We Are Still Here has moments of genuine shock, but it’s also crammed with characters we don’t care too much about. These characters are led by Anne (genre vet Barbara Crampton) and her husband Paul (Andrew Sensenig), who have recently lost their son in a car accident. We meet them as they move into a new house in a remote location, and within the movie’s first 10 minutes, Anne suspects that the spirit of their son is present. That’s it. He’s present. She hadn’t sensed him until she moved into this house, but now she does and that’s final.

The story gets worse once mystic pals May (Lisa Marie) and her husband Jacob (Larry Fessenden) enter the picture. Lisa Marie has never set the world on fire with her performances, but her role as the mystic best friend is dead on arrival. She delivers every line with unneeded urgency. Jacob doesn’t fare much better as the kooky, pothead husband. While it’s refreshing to see middle-aged leads in a horror movie (come to think of it, only three people with dialogue are in their 20s), did it have to be these middle-aged actors?

Without spoiling the exposition offered up by nice-guy neighbor Dave (Alison’s Dad on Melrose Place), the house Anne and Paul moved into has a disturbing history. As guests and handymen soon discover, this history has led to a family of three spirits haunting its grounds. The ghosts are powerful, even possessing the ability to burn their victims to death to suffer the same fate they did. They reside in the basement (“Don’t look in the basement!”), but make appearances whenever the cast is done boring us to death.

You see, whenever the action leaves the household, we pray for the lead quartet to return so something will happen. It’s always difficult to mount suspense when any scene taking place outside of its horror setting is dull and repetitive. These are more than breaks in the action; they’re breaks from paying any attention. It’s a shame, really, because a handful of scenes featuring the ghosts are very effective. The three spirits of the film often appear deep in the background, eerily masked in shadow for most of the film, until inevitably revealing themselves near the end. The eeriest sequence of We Are Still Here occurs when Paul wakes to see two feet through the bottom crack of his bedroom door, completely motionless.

It’s obvious that Geoghegan knows how to stage a scare, but he struggles with story and characters. There are twists in We Are Still Here that could have been handled in a cleaner way. People take actions they don’t need to take to move the plot towards its bloody conclusion. The third act feels as clumsy as the first two, rendering Geoghegan’s feature debut as a misfire, albeit a well-intentioned one. Everyone involved gives it their all, but in the end We Are Still Here is more or less a 90-minute tribute to the superior haunted house features that came before.

Great poster, though.

Advertisement