Old School Horror
Watching as many horror movies as I have, I’ve come to expect certain things from the genre: youth and gore. Meaning, a lot of horror is populated by characters in their teens or twenties and the films tend to favour gore over storytelling and suspense. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good splatter movie, but I also like a mature, thoughtful, slow burn. We Are Still Here falls somewhere between the two.
Shortly after the death of their adult son, Paul (Andrew Sensing) and Anne Sacchetti (Barbara Crampton) move to the country to grieve and heal. Not long after they move in, Anne claims she can feel their son’s presence in the house. She invites their friends, May (Lisa Marie) and Jacob Lewis (Larry Fessenden), a new agey, couple to visit, hoping they’ll be able to either contact their son and/or put Anne’s mind to rest. What they experience that weekend isn’t at all what anyone expected. There is a presence in the house, but it’s not who they think.
We Are Still Here combines elements of The Wicker Man and Poltergeist to bring something new-ish to the table. I say new-ish because writer-director Ted Geoghegan has taken a old idea and put a spin on it. Genuinely new ideas are rare in horror these days, but a retooling of a few older stories can indeed seem like a breath of fresh air in a genre that’s stuffed full of remakes and reboots.
How exactly Geoghegan tells his story is a different matter. The movie has a quiet intensity, punctuated by a few jump scares—some of which are pretty effective—but the slow burn is almost too slow. There’s a lot of exposition at the end. Too much of it, in fact; the Sacchettis’ new home has so much history that we need more time to process the backstory. And since we spend so much time with the Sacchettis and their house, when the film cuts away to the townsfolk so we can see what they’re up to, it feels forced and unnatural.
More natural are the actions and reactions of the Sacchettis’ and Lewis’, and the clash between conservatism and new age. Paul is less inclined to believe in healing crystals and seances, but he gives it a go for the sake of his wife. And when everything goes sideways, everyone behaves rationally (or as rationally as possible given the circumstances). The lack of petty bickering and infighting leaves more room for character building and plot development. Even the monsters, the human and inhuman ones, are written with a careful attention to detail.
What’s most appealing about We Are Still Here is its maturity. So much horror deals with teens and twenty-somethings, it can sometimes feel like the genre is only for the young. But a film like this, which is populated almost entirely by people over 30, helps put horror into perspective. In a present that’s fixated on millennials and youth culture, here’s a movie that’s set in the past and tells an adults-only story about grief, guilt, and responsibility.