We Are Still Here operates on the same senseless, nightmare logic that the best works of Lucio Fulci operated on. A family struggling with putting the pieces of their lives back together after the death of their son move into a new house… a house that, naturally, harbors a dark secret. A movie like this usually takes no time to establish the weirdness or to let the viewer know that they’re going to be watching something intended to be more like a haunted carnival ride than a scary story with a coherent plot. Anything that can will go bump in the night and plot takes a back seat to spectacle.
The bereaved family’s last name is Sacchetti, named I’m sure after Dardano Sacchetti, the screenwriter for Lucio Fulci’s superior outings as a director, like Zombi 2, but We Are Still Here is most similar to The Beyond, a film (in?)famous for its feverish plotting. Both films begin with the straightforward story of a place which is evil, but the boundaries of that evil, or the basic understanding of it, are like elements that can come and go as they please. If the plot requires something of that evil, the plot will make it so in order to derive the most fun out of a situation.
We Are Still Here takes place in one of those houses where you can understand why anyone would move in if they actually knew the history of what took place there. It’s fantastic! I don’t care what happened there! If the price is right, I can turn on a stereo or something when I go to sleep so I won’t have to be woken up by mysterious howls of the unknown or something unidentifiable banging in that cellar that only an idiot would go down in without a machine gun.
And, further, it takes place in one of those towns where the townfolk just glare at the newcomer city slickers. I’ve never understood that in movies… if you live in a town with a house everyone agrees upon as being evil and someone moves into it, try not to stare. It’s not polite. If you want to say something, say something. If you don’t care, keep eating your burger. But, don’t stare.
The movie reveals the form of the evil and its secrets relatively early on, and through clumsy exposition—but this is a part of the movie’s charm. You might be thinking the movie is spilling its secrets far too early and in such an unsubtle way, but the filmmakers haven’t even shared half of the macabre backstory. This movie makes you wait until the very end credits to get a fuller, broader scope of what the house wants, and even then it’s still sensible enough to keep some of its secrets from the audience. The true nature of the evil is still shrouded in mystery by the end.
Ted Geoghegan directs and co-writes the film. Though he’s not a new director, none of his work is anything that I’m familiar with and I hope that We Are Still Here gives his career a much-needed boost. He’s incredibly literate in terms on film history and filmmaking technique for the kind of movie he’s set out to make and uses a great mix of subtle scares and over-the-top gore when the moment calls for it. He knows how to create tension and he knows how to pull a scare from out of nowhere, acknowledging that it’s a cheap move but having a self-aware winking nod to it.
Barbara Crampton, who was also in You’re Next, shows that she’s still as game as ever to be in the forefront of horror. We Are Still Here is a great vehicle for performers because it’s so (intentionally) ludicrously plotted, that as long as you seem to have a basic grasp on the situation unfolding around you, you’re going to look like a great actor. And I don’t mean that as an insult or as a backhanded compliment, I mean it sincerely. Being good in these kinds of genre pictures is a hard task, and if you can do as well as Barbara Crampton does here, you come out looking great. She’s basically the Marlon Brando of being in horror movies—from Re-Animator to We Are Still Here, she certainly deserves the title.
Also joining the cast is Larry Fessenden, whose appearance or involvement in a horror movie in the past 15 years is like something of a good luck blessing. He’s produced Ti West’s movies from Trigger Man all the way up to The Innkeepers, and has appeared in We Are What We Are and Jug Face.