We Are Still Here an Ingenious House of Horrors
Anne (Barbara Crampton) and Paul Sacchetti (Andrew Sensenig) have come to the small secluded New England township of Aylesbury to get away from the city and the memories of their dearly departed college-aged son Bobby. When things get a little odd, Anne becomes convinced their son’s spirit is inside the house, so certain she asks friends – and paranormal psychiatrists – May (Lisa Marie) and Jacob Lewis (Larry Fessenden) to come and visit. They in turn invite their own son Harry (Michael Patrick), Bobby’s former roommate, and his current girlfriend Daniella (Kelsea Dakota) to join them, May positive the energy they’ll supply will help ascertain the intentions of the spirit residing in the house with the Sacchettis.
The truth, however, is anything but nice. According to town mythology, the initial owners of the house, mortician Lassander Dagmar and his family, were run out on a rail for reasons best left unspoken according to neighbor Dave McCabe (Monte Markham) and his wife Cat (Connie Neer). But that isn’t entirely accurate, and now every 30 years the house wakes up needing fresh blood to quench its thirst. That means Anne, Paul and anyone else they bring inside is in mortal danger, Dave and the rest of the good citizens of Aylesbury determined to make sure the demonic bloodlust lurking in the basement is satiated.
We Are Still Here is terrifically unsettling, moving at a brisk clip and building to a suitably blood-soaked conclusion filled with uncomforting delights. Writer/director Ted Geoghegan, working from a concept conceived by Richard Griffin, has delivered a sensational horror treat, this B-grade shocker crafting tension slowly but surely before unleashing a smorgasbord of mayhem and violence that’s extraordinary. Along with It Follows, this is one of the best genre efforts of the year.
Geoghegan’s film works because he maintains focus on Anne and Paul throughout, allowing their eyes to open to what is going on at the same rate as the viewer. While Crampton is no stranger to stories like this (her history in the genre spans everything from Re-Animator, to From Beyond, to You’re Next), that doesn’t make her performance less superb. In fact, this might be the horror icon’s best work ever, mining territories and hitting emotional beats that are byzantine in their titillating complexity. She and Sensenig, a veteran character actor whose name you might not recognize but whose face most assuredly is, are great together, having an authentic, melancholic give-and-take that’s honest and pure. You feel the tragedy they’ve endured even if you’re never privy to what happened and how, all of which makes the climactic events have more weight and meaning than they would have had otherwise.
The mix between comedy and terror isn’t always spot-on, Geoghegan spinning things in a Sam Raimi meets Stuart Gordon meet Lucio Fulci direction that isn’t always fitting. But when the balance does work the results are sublime, the filmmaker hitting it out of the park with a crackerjack final 20 minutes that had me sitting on the edge of my seat in white-knuckled joy, my eyes popping out of my head in glee. More, as outlandish as things become the story itself remains emotionally grounded, keeping the grieving parents front and center while never forgetting what the house needs and wants for a single second.
And that’s key. The secret to the film’s success is that it remains true to a line of dialogue Dave utters more than a couple of times throughout, the nuances found within crucial as to what will transpire and why. It also allows for a final scene that’s oddly heartbreaking and, in some strange, surreal way kind of way, uplifting, a fade to black focused on Sensenig beautiful in its own, disquieting way. We Are Still Here is just great filmmaking, plain and simple, and as horror gems go this is one house I can’t wait to revisit again.
Film Rating: 3½ (out of 4)