We Are Still Here (2015) Review

wash1WE ARE STILL HERE (2015)

Director: Ted Geoghegan

Stars: Barbara Crampton, Andrew Sensenig, Lisa Marie, Larrey Fessenden, Monte Markham, Susan Gibney, Michael Patrick, Kelsea Dakota

UK release: 19th October from Studio Canal

Anne (Barbara Crampton) and Paul (Andrew Sensenig) are grieving after losing their college student son Bobby. The pair leaves their home in the city (and the painful memories it holds) behind and relocate to a small New England town. However, upon moving in Anne becomes certain that Bobby’s spirit has followed them.

As if that wasn’t creepy enough, neighbour Dave McCabe (Monte Markham) recounts the grisly history of their new house and the maligned Dagmar family that dwelled there. Fearing for his wife’s emotional wellbeing, Paul invites their friends, psychic May (Lisa Marie) and stoner Jacob Lewis (Fessenden), to visit.

However, the group soon realises that this small town is not so welcoming to outsiders…

wash2We Are Still Here is a homage to the works of horror maestro Lucio Fulci — specifically his ‘Gates of Hell’ trilogy. As such it contains plenty of elements similar to those in Fulci’s films. This means slow-burn suspense scenes as we are drip-fed a simple plot, interspersed with moments of graphic gore and nutty supernatural shenanigans.

The earlier scenes give you plenty of barely glimpsed hints of otherworldly goings-on, much like a Seventies supernatural horror film — but this is a trick, lulling the viewer into a false sense of security before springing the trap with graphic depictions of the entities in the cellar and their shocking attacks. This shows some tremendous filmmaking talent from director Ted Geoghegan — combining restrained pacing with spectacular visuals. The film is set in 1979 and feels very much of the era, from the costumes down to the set dressing. The cinematography by Karim Hussain also evokes a throwback feel that heightens the comparison to classic horror films — from The Changeling, by way of The Fog to both The Evil Dead and Rosemary’s Baby. However, the chief sources of inspiration are the works of Fulci — especially The House By The Cemetery — and HP Lovecraft.

wash3The script (written by director Geoghegan from a concept by Richard Griffin) wears this inspiration for all to see with the characters taking their names from the characters and the cast and crew of Fulci’s 1981 movie. Of course, it takes more than slick visuals and nods to genre classics to create a decent horror film, it also needs characters you can root for. Casting such talented actors as Crampton and Sensenig certainly helps here. Crampton is a scream queen from a list of genre classics, including Re-Animator and From Beyond. Here, as always, she’s excellent.

Opposite Crampton, Sensenig is also brilliant. A veteran actor with over a decade’s experience, he makes a perfect foil, while in the supporting roles the standouts are character actor Fessenden and Tim Burton regular Marie, plus the gravitas-laden Markham. With a strong cast and well-crafted scares, it might seem unlikely that We Are Still Here would deliver on the splatter front, however, from the make up on the undead Dagmars to their bloody revenge, the film features plenty of impressive gore.

Alas, the main problem with We Are Still Here comes from the manner in which it so faithfully follows the structure of Fulci’s films. Fulci was more of a visceral filmmaker than a storyteller. His plots were often simple, with random WTF elements introduced sporadically for flavour.

wash4We Are Still Here isn’t as gonzo as some of Fulci’s works, but late on the plot threatens to collapse under its own weight. Luckily, it keeps its head above water, never cheating as the various elements click into place. If nothing else, Geoghegan deserves credit for following his vision through to its barmy conclusion.

That barminess is just one reason that We Are Still Here was such a surprise. From its throwback feel to its incredible cast, visuals and gore effects, it screams quality. I love that this could inspire today’s fans to read some Lovecraft or check out Fulci. Geoghegan has crafted a fantastic genre film that stands on its own — that it references classic films as it does so is just the icing on the cake.