Overview: A couple grieving the death of their son move into a house haunted by demonic forces who are hungry for a sacrifice. 2015; Dark Sky Films; 84 Minutes.
Sticking Around: For all of the long-winded rants I tend to throw in the direction of the horror genre, the most reliable paths to moderate success seem to be basic formulas. There’s nothing exceptional about We Are Still Here, nothing unique that I can point to that sets this throwback haunted house films apart from countless similar films of the same fabric. And yet, I still really, really enjoyed this movie. The template is unaltered: an unsuspecting group of folks unwittingly occupy a house of sinister spiritual occupation and folks die one-by-one, and yet, the movie lands in deeper favor than those that attempt to get fancy by customizing that same simple established set of principles.
Identity Confidence: Writer/director Ted Geoghegan has no desire to satirize or criticize his influences (and there are plenty, from The Innocents, to House on Haunted Hill, to The Innkeepers). Instead, he nods without winking in their direction, without dismissing the rules that they established. Mainstream audiences have never been tired of basic horror formulas. They have never asked for a re-invention, just updated versions. The liberties taken by Geoghegan aren’t customizations that change the framework, but rather ones that exist within that solid framework. The mythology at the heart of We Are Still Here is simple, yet unsettling, both interesting and familiar, and it’s presented without a disruptive obstruction of the narrative. When Dave McCabe (Monte Markham) explains the house’s history to new residents Anne and Paul Sacchetti (Barbara Crampton and Andrew Sensenig), his rambling historical offering doesn’t intrude, but creates a horrific parallel narrative, one that intercepts with the central haunting in a climax that traditional horror fans are sure to witness gleefully.
Scare-Craft: After having intercepted the early film festival buzz regarding We Are Still Here, I expected a movie that exhibited a carnival of gruesome imagery (perhaps like the re-imagined Evil Dead). To a degree, this is true, but less to a visual measure and more to a measure of incredible sound editing and cut-scene placement. The film doesn’t show the supernatural violence as much as it makes it felt. Similarly, the design of the haunting demons/ghosts isn’t anything incomparable to past supernatural cinematic forms, but it works in its simplicity. At its core, We Are Still Here is a movie that succeeds by welcoming the cheat sheet provided by past loved films.
Overall: We Are Still Here is a movie that accepts its identity as a basic haunted house movie, and in doing so, it ends up being the best haunted house movie since Paranormal Activity 3.