WE ARE STILL HERE – The Review
Some of the best and surprising films, not just in horror but all genres, are the ones that sneak up on you and catch you off guard. To be more specific, small films that seemingly come out of nowhere, without warning, and despite their having an otherwise mild-mannered appearance, turn out to have quite a surprising impact.
Written and directed by Ted Geoghagan, WE ARE STILL HERE is one of these little modestly made films that speak quietly but carry a big stick. WASH, as I will refer to it from here on out, is a superbly made film that does not strike you as such upon the first viewing. Instead, its a film that nags at you and eats away at your mind after the viewing has ended. For myself, I came away from my initial viewing thinking only mediocre thoughts of its content, but as I soon realized, I had been infected by the film’s mind-boring parasite that stuck with me and couldn’t let me go, allowing me to realize the subtle genius of the film.
Ted Geoghogan has embraced and brought into his film the very essence of the creepy, low-profile 80s horror flick. WASH is a contemporary film that deserves the recent trend toward nostalgic throwbacks. WASH needs a limited edition big box VHS release. That’s the overall reaction I had to this movie, being one of those rare gems that I stumbled upon in the back of the horror section on the top dusty shelf, nearly out of reach at the local mom and pop video rental shop. For some of you, this translates to a remarkably high appraisal of the film, and you devoted few understand what that means.
WASH tells the story of a middle-aged couple, Paul and Anne Sacchetti, who move to a remote house in the woods of New England after their teenage son has died in an automobile accident. Its winter and the overall tone of the film is cold, from the weather to the emotions and even the lighting and color palette chosen to illustrate the film visual tone. Paul and Anne are grieving, and in their misery fail to notice some strange behavior amidst them in the small town, which gives the small town charm and hospitality cliche an eerie twist when they realize that the house is not as cozy as they’d hoped.
Anne, played by veteran genre actress Barbara Crampton, is the first of the couple to notice the strange sounds and occurrences. She is the first to catch glimpses of figures, shadowing entities and flickering ghostly visions of horrifying things. At first fearing the grief is proving too much, Paul (played by Andrew Sensenig) too becomes aware that they are not alone and the house is home to something far removed from the pleasant welcoming of the locals. The difference in the couples’ interpretation is what initially sets this slow-burn ghost story in motion. Anne believes the apparition is her son, trying desperately to reach out and speak to his parents. Paul, on the other hand, being a more rationale man, doesn’t buy it and fears they are in danger.
Encouraged by the town folk to stay, and not wanting to upset his wife more than necessary, Paul allows the belief to preside for a while, but its the secrets house within the town that are as dangerous as the presence that calls the Sacchetti’s house home. WASH brings into being a common theme of H.P. Lovecraft’s works around a town’s collective involvement with strange occurrences. Geoghogan does this in a more digestible form than Lovecraft’s oft-dated settings, but the heart of it remains the same. We saw a similar trend in the 80s, one of the more recognizable being Stephen King’s CHILDREN OF THE CORN (1984) where a community comes together for a common good, which is really quite evil.
While we’re revisiting the 80s, I should point out another impressive element of WASH being the special effects makeup. The portrayal of the badly burned, nearly unrecognizable spirits is fantastic. The mix of traditional makeup effects and subtle digital enhancements give these entities chill-inducing realism, both in the quality and in the execution, that makes them appear as though they are forever smoldering in agonizing pain. Just the thought of it makes one itch and that’s the point. The eyes of the entities also harken back to an earlier era of supernatural horror flicks, namely of the Italian persuasion. The filmmaker’s soft spot for these film also becomes apparent with a few Easter eggs nods to such Italian classics as THE BEYOND and THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY, both from 1981.
As I mentioned previously, your initial viewing may set you up for an extended fright. A great deal of this is due to the masterful cinematography from genre-regular Karim Hussain, whose credits as cinematographer include HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN, ANTIVIRAL and the TV Series HANNIBAL, none of which look the same, all of which look amazing. I can honestly say I am more creeped out by WE ARE STILL HERE now, as I write this review, than I was during or just after viewing the film. Perhaps that’s a testament to the film’s power, and credence in the film’s title as fair warning to its viewers.
WE ARE STILL HERE arrives in theaters and on VOD June 5th, 2015