The moment that a film is tagged as “being in the vein of” or “[insert famous director]-esque,” there is a risk that a shadow will be cast over it that will be impossible to overcome. Immediately following the initial press screenings of Ted Geoghegan’s debut film, We Are Still Here, this is precisely what happened. It seemed that people were doing their damnedest to paint the picture as Fucli-esque, or as some attempt to ‘keep the sprit of Fulci alive.’ This, however, a bit of a misnomer because, while Geoghegan’s film displays strong homages to Fulci’s work, to paint it as such reduces an otherwise complex, engaging new horror film.
The film opens with a bereaving couple moving to an old house located in rural New England. Haunted by the loss of their teenaged son, the house opens up a chance to live without the constant reminder of his absence. Once the couple begins settling in, however, strange occurrences start to plague the couple and it is not long before they start to sense that they are not alone and, worse, they are not wanted.
While most of We Are Still Hill epitomizes what a debut horror film should be, sadly the film’s biggest fault should be its greatest asset. While Geoghegan should be praised for enlisted an almost uniformly middle aged cast (in the current sea of teenage-centric horror films, this is something of a rarity), the casting of Barbara Crampton in the lead comes as a bit of a misstep. This may come as a surprise for some. After all, Crampton has had quite a career in genre cinema, starring in Re-Animator, From Beyond, and most recently in Adam Wingard’s You’re Next. With that said, she is rather stiff in her role. There are moments where she really shines, especially in the film’s climax, but much of the earlier, more emotional scenes come off as a bit flat. Other than Crampton, the film is rather well casted. Andrew Sensenig is competent as Crampton’s husband, Paul, but his character is a bit vanilla. Indie horror director Larry Fessenden gives a strong, humorous performance as an aging hippie obsessed with the supernatural, alongside an equally engaging effort by Tim Burton regular Lisa Marie (Ed Wood, Mars Attacks).
The film’s real strong suit are the practical effects. While it doesn’t completely escape the CGI-laden trend of modern indie cinema, Geoghegan strikes a nice balance and the CGI that is used is generally in service of the film. Geoghegan crafts a pacing that grants the film a palpable sense of fear. There are jump scares but they are not cheap, they are genuine. While it comes nowhere near the levels of gore that may be assumed with the “Fulci-esque” tag being thrown around, there is more than enough blood, guts, and brains spilled to please the gorehounds out there.
As the debut film by writer/actor Geoghegan, We Are Still Here shows a tremendous amount of not only promise but also familiarity with genre cinema. It is a confident film, one that knows what it wants to be and does just that. Because of this, there is not an ounce of pretension to be found. Instead, the film honors the classics while still managing to showcase enough original ideas of its own to not be lost in the mix.
We Are Still Here is now available on VOD and iTunes