December 21, 2015

Movie Review: We Are Still Here

In 1981, Lucio Fulci completed the unofficial Gates of Hell Trilogy with House by the Cemetery (it follows The Beyond and City of the Living Dead). The movie centered on a family who move to an old house with a secret. I do not want to give away the secret, but let me say it is a good one. The film is another winner in the late Fulci’s filmography. It has a great score and features the great Catriona MacColl. Of course, it has the most annoying screen child this side of the Babadook boy, the infamous Bobby. Now, I am sure you are wondering just what this has to do with We Are Still Here, right? Well, rest assured, it is not another remake.

Honestly, I initially didn’t pay much attention to this movie when it was released. I think I confused the title with What We Do in the Shadows (which was alright, but I didn’t care for as much as others seem to). Had I actually paid attention to the buzz, I would have realized just how good a cast it has (featuring Barbara Crampton, Larry Fessenden, and Lisa Marie), I may have looked a lot sooner. What really sold me on it, and ties into the Fulci film, is meeting Barbara Crampton at a convention, she asked what my favorite horror film was, I said The Beyond and expressed some sort of love for Fulci, this is when she brought up this movie and mentioned it was based on Fulci’s House by the Cemetery. That had me, hook, line, and sinker. Of course, it still took a little while to actually get a copy and watch it.

Now, while this is based on the same story as House by the Cemetery, We Are Still Here is a vastly different film. It is the sort of movie that takes its time to set things up before unleashing hell. It is the sort of movie that revels in building its atmosphere, letting things simmer before bringing on the rolling boil. It works magnificently.

Anne (Crampton) and Paul Sacchetti (Andrew Sensenig) (possible named after frequent Fulci collaborator Dardano Sacchetti?) have moved to a home in a small upstate New York town to grieve the loss of their son, Bob (hmmm). Anne is suffering pretty badly, unable to deal with the loss. Of course, it doesn’t help that she hears things around the old house, footsteps, doors, nothing really scary, but things that cannot be explained. Paul, on the other hand, is doing his best to move forward, but Anne keeps holding them back.

Anne thinks that she is sensing Bob’s spirit in the house. To help with these ideas, they invite psychic friend Mary Lewis (Lisa Marie) and her husband Jacob (Fessenden) to come up for the weekend. No sooner have they arrived that they begin to feel a dark presence in the house. Things escalate further when we learn of a dark secret the townsfolk have been keeping.

Now, I do not want to give anything away, but this movie really gets crazy as the finale approaches. It is not a terribly complex movie, but it is effective, creepy, and knows just how to pull the strings. It lets things build up, it does not get too bogged down in explaining everything, but gives you enough to keep you intrigued.

Writer/Director Ted Geoghegan has really made a good film that deserves the praise it gets. No, not everyone is going to love it, but what movie does? While it is certainly inspired by Fulci’s film and has a bit of an Italian feel to it, it is not a remake or a ripoff. It is a reinterpretation of similar sources. He takes bits of House by the Cemetery and reworks them into his own story. It is really interesting in how it does that, taking bits of old and incorporating them into something much fresher. There is a level of familiarity but you cannot relax on that, you have to be ready for something new. It is like going to a haunted mansion with new attractions, you are familiar with the layout, but there are new surprise along the way creating a new experience.

Is We Are Still Here a classic? I don’t know, it will take time to shake things out. What I can say is that in the here and now, it is a fantastic film that delivers both atmospherically and viscerally. It is the sort of movie to savor.

Highly Recommended.

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