Richard Griffin (Concept)
Guy Gane III
THIS REVIEW IS BASED UPON THE RETAIL BLU-RAY RELEASE PROVIDED BY ANCHOR BAY ENTERTAINMENT CANADA FOR REVIEW
The horror genre since the turn of the millennium has been very unusual. Due to the success of the 2003 remake The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and 2004’s Saw, the genre, at least in the mainstream, has been populated by remakes and so called “torture porn”. Some of these are good (I thoroughly enjoyed the reboot of Friday The 13th for example, and the Hostel movies are dumb fun) but most of these films are atrociously horrible (the Rob Zombie Halloween movies and the aforementioned terrible Saw movies). But over the past 5 years or so, people willing to look beyond what is playing at the local multiplex have been given some solid atmospheric horror. Movies like Ti West‘s House Of The Devil and The Innkeepers are excellent throwbacks to old school horror. I had been hearing quite a bit of good buzz behind the new haunted house film from writer/director Ted Geoghegan We Are Still Here, so when the opportunity was presented to check it out, I of course jumped at the chance. As many people are aware, sometimes going into a film that has good word surrounding it can be dangerous, as heightened expectations can sometimes hurt ones view of a film, so I attempted to stay level headed going in. So, does the film live up to the hype?
Moving into a new home in the cold climate of snowy New England, Anne (Barbara Crampton, Re-Animator and You’re Next) and Paul Sachetti (Andrew Sensenig, Dylan Dog: Dead Of Night) are trying to move forward with their lives following the death of their college-aged son. One night while they are still getting assimilated to their new residence, they receive a visit from their neighbors, Dave and Cat McCabe (Monte Markham best known for Baywatch and Connie Neer) who inform the Sachetti’s of the history of their new home. The old residents, the Dagmar family, appear to still be haunting the home and Anne believes that their son Bobby is also in the home with them. They invite the family of Bobby’s best friend when he was alive to come visit, as the mother, May Lewis (Lisa Marie, Ed Wood and Sleepy Hollow) has the ability to speak with the other side. She brings along her pot-smoking hippie husband Jacob (perennial genre favorite Larry Fessenden, I Sell The Dead) and they are to be joined later by their son Harry (Michael Patrick) and his girlfriend Daniella (Kelsea Dakota). Harry and Daniella arrive to the home while his parents and the Sachettis are in town for dinner, and as this is a horror movie, this is where the fun starts in a scene that absolutely feels like a tribute to the Lucio Fulci classic House By The Cemetery. As is commonplace in a film like this, we find out that not everything is what it seems, as the film builds to an explosive finale.
We Are Still Here is a film wrought with a sense of dread and atmosphere. One of my absolute favorite things about the film is that much like the aforementioned Ti West films, the movie builds a fantastic feeling of atmosphere, and much like many of the old 70s horror that it is paying homage to, it completely wraps the viewer up into feeling uneasy throughout. But unlike most films that have this type of atmosphere, We Are Still Here is not afraid to bust out some great gore, which will help feed the appetite of any gorehound. The balance that director Geoghegan strikes between the two styles is nearly perfect.
Another incredibly strong aspect to the film is the cast. Obviously the biggest catch and what grabbed most horror fans attention was the casting of Barbara Crampton. Best known for her roles in Re-Animator and From Beyond, Crampton had taken a leave from the business for many years before returning to the screen recently in You’re Next. This is arguably her biggest role since that film, and she absolutely nails the distant yet present feeling of a mother who has just lost her only child. Lisa Marie and Larry Fessenden play their roles of the spiritual hippie potheads dead on, with Fessenden standing out as he always does. But I think the real revelation of the film is Andrew Sensenig as Paul. As the character who essentially anchors the film, Sensenig, an actor in all honesty I cannot recall seeing in anything else, portrays the man who is completely skeptical of everything around him, but slowly realizes that everything happening around him is indeed quite real, and he has no choice but to accept the unbelievable if he is going to make it out alive. The transformation that his character undergoes is played pitch-perfect by Sensenig, and I absolutely hope to start seeing him in more films as he shows here that he is a man with undoubted talent.
Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada is handling the Canadian release of the film, both on DVD and Blu-Ray. The video presentation of the Blu-Ray is stunning, as any newer film should be on the format. In terms of special features, the disc contains a Teaser, the official Trailer and a Behind The Scenes Making Of that, while short, is still chock full of some great information (and also taught me how to pronounce Geoghegan‘s last name after knowing of him for 15 years!). The film also comes with the standard commentary, in this case, featuring writer/director Ted Geoghegan and producer Travis Stevens. One of the stand out features the Canadian release has is special artwork available only here in Canada. While my personal preference leans towards the original artwork (it’s absolutely beautiful!) Anchor Bay wisely offers the original artwork on the flipside, so you can easily switch it out.
If you like your horror to be a little stronger than most of the same stuff that has been regurgitating through the system for the past decade or so, I honestly cannot recommend We Are Still Here enough. Even going into the film with heightened expectations, despite trying to stay level headed as I mentioned previously, the film absolutely blew my socks off. I have absolutely no reservations calling it the best horror film of 2015, and as someone who usually hates everything, this is the highest praise I can offer. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it may be my favorite horror film I’ve seen in the past few years. It truly is that good, and if you are a horror fan, you must check it out. Whether you prefer old school scares and atmosphere, or are a hardened gorehound, We Are Still Here offers up a little bit of everything for everyone. I absolutely cannot wait to see what Geoghegan comes up with next, and I can assure you I will be one of the first people waiting to see what it is, and ready to gobble it up!
We Are Still Here is currently available in the US on all formats, and in Canada via digital formats. The DVD and Blu-Ray will be released by Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada on October 13th!