M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Five of my year-long Retro-Best in Horror I’m recapping the Countdown beginning officially on October 1, 2014 and going through September 30, 2015. I have posted compilation lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t! Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!
Released on June 5, 2015. Available On Demand, digital download, and Blu-ray/DVD! Also streaming on Amazon Prime!
WE ARE STILL HERE (2015)
Directed by Ted Geoghegan
Written by Ted Geoghegan, Richard Griffin
Starring Barbara Crampton, Andrew Sensenig, Lisa Marie, Larry Fessenden, Monte Markham, Susan Gibney, Michael Patrick Nicholson, Kelsea Dakota, Guy Gane, Elissa Dowling, Zorah Burress, Marvin Patterson, Connie Neer
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
WE ARE STILL HERE is the type of film they just don’t make anymore, and that’s a shame because it’s the type of film that I love. It’s a lived in film–one that feels like the world in which the film exists is well thought out and fully realized, so you don’t so much as watch the film as you experience it, as writer/director Ted Geoghegan (with his co-writer Richard Griffin) patiently immerses you in this house and this horrifying situation to make a film that ends up being utterly transfixing.
Having just lost their son to a car crash, devastated parents Paul and Anne Sacchetti (Andrew Sensing and RE-ANIMATOR’s Barbara Crampton) move into an old home in a New England town to start over. But upon entering the home, Anne almost immediately feels a presence and, being overcome with desperation, she believes it is her son reaching out from beyond the grave to communicate to her. Anne invites her friends Jacob and May Lewis (writer/director/actor/all around great dude Larry Fessenden and Tim Burton’s ex Lisa Marie), who are sensitive to the paranormal, to give the house a reading. But what none of them understand is that the house has a long and horrific history, and the Sacchetti family is just the latest in what seems to be many families who move into the home and never leave.
The most prevalent aspect of this film is the pacing. While this might be a film that infuriates the ADHD masses, I found the long shots of the exteriors of the household interspersed with close up shots of the seemingly banal details of the house to set a mood that you can almost touch. One scene in particular focuses on the tendril-like trees with the bare limbs free of leaves due to the winter weather with the house in the background, then cuts to a close-up of a rusty hook on the side of the house. Little moments like this may seem throwaway, but they are crucial in ratcheting up the tension and setting a mood that says “this place is dangerous.” Geoghegan channels his inner Kubrick here by patiently letting the scene envelop the viewer and pull them in to foreboding places. The long shots of the car driving at the reader down the snowy roads as well as the 80s style clothing reminded me so much of THE SHINING; though the story and content was vastly different, the tone is definitely the same type of creeping unease that permeates that classic film.
Another admirable aspect of the film is that this really feels like the tip of the iceberg in terms of the story involved. This film focuses on two different families’ plights, but there’s a greater evil at play here as you’re not really sure whether the recounting of the tragedies of the town are accurate or some elaborate ruse to cover up something more sinister. It’s this kind of ambiguity that adds to that sense of unease, as if the blacked-out spaces we don’t know make things all the more ominous. The things we do see are horrifying. Geoghegan teases us with some clever play with shadows and forms in the background, but it’s the burning touch of the white-eyed ghosts with charred black skin that really ups the horror. These original-looking specters are horrifying and reminiscent of the dark pirates from John Carpenter’s THE FOG in the way they look and move.
There are a few blips in the delivery of information that feel a bit info-dumpy, as when a neighboring couple stop by to educate the Sacchettis about the history of the house and again when the couple appear later in the film in a restaurant. Still, these expositional drops are necessary in filling in some of the gaps in the story. For the most part, WE ARE STILL HERE is proof positive that Geoghegan has not only done his homework on what causes effective scares, but is fully capable of delivering retro frights while making them feel fresh and new. All four of the main leads (Crampton, Sensing, Fessenden, and Marie) deliver rock solid and splendidly believable performances, with Crampton once again proving that her best acting years are ahead of her and not behind her in FROM BEYOND and RE-ANIMATOR. More horror films should take note of the patience used in this film. The need for a jump scare every two minutes is an insult and often leaves me feeling hollow upon leaving the theater. It’s almost impossible to leave this film unsatisfied as it is chock full of scares, thrills, and absolute horror. Highly recommended.
THE 2014-2015 COUNTDOWN!
#22 – WE ARE STILL HERE
#23 – A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT
#24 – WYRMWOOD: ROAD OF THE DEAD
#25 – THE EDITOR
#26 – DEAD SNOW 2: RED VS DEAD
#27 – PARA ELISA
#28 – THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT
#29 – FROM THE DARK
#30 – EXISTS
#31 – A PLAGUE SO PLEASANT
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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