WE ARE STILL HERE (2015)
Label: Dark Sky Films
Region Code: A
Duration: 83 Minutes
Audio: Englisg DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround, DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Ted Geoghegan
Cast: Barbara Crampton, Andrew Sensenig, Lisa Marie, Larry Fessenden, Monte Markham
Synopsis: After their teenage son is killed in a car crash, Paul (Andrew Sensenig) and Anne (Barbara Crampton) move to the quiet New England countryside to try to start a new life for themselves. But the grieving couple unknowingly becomes the prey of a family of vengeful spirits that reside in their new home, and before long they discover that the seemingly peaceful town they’ve moved into is hiding a terrifyingly dark secret. Now they must find a way to overcome their sorrow and fight back against both the living and dead as the malicious ghosts threaten to pull their souls – and the soul of their lost son – into hell with them. Co-starring Larry Fessenden and Lisa Marie, writer-director Ted Geoghegan’s WE ARE STILL HERE is a tense, frightening, and thoroughly haunting modern ghost story.
WE ARE STILL HERE sets a tone right from the start, a rural home located in the icy cold desolation of Upstate New York during the dead of winter in the year 1979. A grieving couple share a silent car ride on the way to their new home, the one hundred year old Dagmore house, a former mortuary with a storied history of macabre activity. Paul (Andrew Sensenig) and Anne (Barbara Crampton) have a distance between them, each grieving the loss of their beloved teenage son in their own way, with Paul putting up a strong front for his teary-eyed wife. Anne comes to suspect that the spirit of her dead son has somehow followed them to their new home and is trying to communicate with her.
A creepy older neighbor named Dave McCabe (Markham) stops by for an unannounced visit with his wife, he informs the couple about the storied history of their new home, how the mortician Dagmore had sold cadavers for various uses, for science and for consumption apparently, before being run out of town by the villagers back in the day. It's an odd conversation to break the ice with but there is something very off about Mr. McCabe, and his wife, who secretly leaves a not on her way out, warning the couple that the house needs a family... but what does it mean?
Afterward Anne becomes increasingly becomes obsessed with the idea that something other worldly is lurking in the basement of home, something which causes picture frames to fall and for the floor boards to creak without reason, the usual sort of haunted house stuff, there's also the lingering odor of smoke, as if something is burning. The home is captured on camera in long ominous slow pans that caress the cold exteriors and wooden paneling, inside the home there's a creepy basement where bad things seem to happen, just as Joe the Electrician, who encounters the supernatural forces for himself when he goes below to find the source of the smokey smell that plagues the basement.
Convinced that the spirit of her departed son is present in the home Anne invites family friend May (Lisa Marie), a self-professed psychic, and her offbeat hippie husband Jacob (Larry Fessenden) to the home to perform a seance and establish contact. Right away May detects a sinister presence in the home and warns Anne not to pursue it, but Jacob performs an impromptu seance against her wishes, which invites a possession scenario with the always great Fessenden drooling and chewing up the scenery in a fun scene that really kicks the film into high gear with plenty of ghostly ghouls and gruesome gore, the gore gags are fantastic. During the finale the couples are besieged by not only demonic apparitions but a horde of angry towns people who would prefer that a certain town secret be kept and they are willing to murder for it one scene of a head being squeezed until it bursts stands out to me.
The movie is an homage to Lucio Fulci's gruesome haunter The House by the Cemetery in many ways, the isolated setting, something lurking in the basement, even the name of the couple, the Sachetti's, named after frequent Fulci screenwriter Dardano Sachetti who write for Mario and Lamberto Bava among many others, a true icon of Italian cinema. There are other nods to haunted house cinema too, including Peter Medak's classic haunter The Changeling (1980), paying homage to the scene of the rubber ball bouncing down the stairs, you can see the love for classic horror these guys have, loved the reference to Joe the Plumber from Lucio Fulci's The Beyond (1981).
Aside from the cool homages that horror nerds will love we have some very cool special effects, the demonic presence that inhabits the house have a cool smoldering aesthetic, they can burn their victims, but are also comfortable just digging their burned-black thumbs into their eye-sockets or crushing their head into a bloody pulp. The gore is pretty dam wonderful, a hand thrust through the back of car seat through the chest, the aforementioned skull crusher, a fire poker through the eye-socket, just some goo violent supernatural fun, these spirits are out for vengeance, and the visceral nature of it reminded me of the spirits from John Carpenter's The Fog (1980), brutal stuff.
The writing is top notch, a good blend of subtle humor and tasteful homages, a moment of comic relief then straight into a terror-fueled nightmare the next, I enjoyed everything about it from start to finish. The cast is awesome, horror-icon Barbara Crampton look appropriately drained as the grief stricken mother, and Andrew Sensenig is strong as the husband who is trying to hold it together despite his own grief, plagued by horrific nightmares of his own. Lisa Marie and Fessenden are a welcome addition as the psychic hippies, too.
I loved the setting, having been born and raised in Upstate New York the settings around Palmyra looks familiar to me, as did the biting cold of winter, I love winter-set horror and watching this with the AC cranked up last night in the dark put me in the right frame of mind.
Audio/Video: The Blu-ray from Dark Sky Films looks solid through and through, plenty of fine detail, some good depth and clarity, colors are a bit muted by design, and the seventies vibe looks and felt authentic in 1080p. As you might expect from a haunter we get some good use of the surrounds which adds a lot of suspense to the proceedings.
Extras include an informative Audio Commentary with Director Ted Geoghehan and Producer Travis Stevens who speak about the evolution of the project, the nods to other movies, and making the movie in Upstate New York, and how certain effects were achieved. There's also a seven-minute behind-the-scene featurette, and a couple of trailers for the movie.
- Audio Commentary with Director TedGeoghehan and Producer Travis Stevens
- Behind-the-Scenes (7 Mins) HD
- Trailer (2 Mins) HD
- Teaser (2 Mins) HD
Geoghegan hasn't set out to reinvent the haunted house movie so much as he is paying homage to seventies haunter cinema with a shot in the arm of adrenaline fueled gore at the end, and it completely worked for me, loaded with slow-build atmosphere and supernatural tension at every turn, one of the best of the year so far, this will be hard to top. 4/5