As a kid growing up in the 80s there were only a handful of women who, at least for this young horror fan, could sell a film on their name alone. For T&A terror it was the likes of Brinke Stevens, Michelle Bauer and Linnea Quigley; but for the real stuff, the truly horrifying movies it was Barbara Crampton. To this day I will watch any film to which her name is attached, her presence in a movie, especially a horror movie, always elevates the production. Which is why We Are Still Here was pretty much a given at this years Frightfest!
But it’s not just the presence of Crampton that attracted me to this particular slice of New England horror.
Back in 2009, Ti West’s The House of the Devil took Frightfest by storm with its old-school, slow-burning vibe. Produced by Larry Fessenden, the film perfectly captured the look and feel of classic horrors of yesteryear. Well now Fessenden is back, this time in front of the camera for We Sre Still Here – another slice of “American Gothic” horror, which ups the ante on the likes of West’s film by throwing in some superb special effects from one of the, if not the, most underated FX guys working today, Marcus Koch. It also features a cast that seemingly have stepped straight out the 80s, including scream queen come horor icon Barbara Crampton and Monte Markham – a stalwart of 80s TV who gets to flex his “evil bastard” side in a way that we’ve never truly seen from him before!
We Are Still Here tells the story of Paul and Anne Sacchetti who, after their teenage son is killed in a car crash, move to the New England countryside to start a new life. But the grieving couple unknowingly becomes the prey of a family of vengeful spirits that reside in their converted funeral parlour home. And so begins a terrifying fight back against the living hiding a terrible secret and the malicious dead demanding a sacrifice that threatens to pull their cursed souls into hell.
A film with shades of the likes of Lucio Fulci’s The House By the Cemetery, Pupi Avati’s The House With the Windows That Laughed and even John Carpenter’s The Fog, We Are Still Here is an old-fashioned ghost story that revels in the golden age of horror, perfectly capturing an era of filmmaking that – if you only ever saw Hollywood’s horror output – you do not see in this day and age…
This is a film featuring actors giving actual performances instead of just running round scream and swearing; a plot that slowly unfolds, offering clues as just just what is going on in the story rather than slamming you over the head with clunky exposition (although Fessenden’s character is Mr. Exposition in this flick); and and ending that leaves audiences wanting more – and not because they want to see more gore and/or nudity but because they want to find out more about the characters, discover more about We Are Still Here‘s ashen protagonists and see what happens AFTER this film’s story has ended.
And all this from Ted Geoghegan, a writer/director whose previous efforts – as producer on the likes of Sweatshop, 100 Tears (directed by the aforementioned Marcus Koch) and writer for Andreas Schnaas’ first English-language film Demonium and Nikos the Impaler – do not reflect the subtleties and nuances found here. Those film were exercises in bloody horror, this is an exercise in sheer terror. It would seem Geoghegan, as director, is more suited to traditional horror filmmaking rather than the gore-filled nasties he has written and produced in the past. I, for one, hope he continues to balance both traditions.
A perfect blend of creepy, gory and wonderful, We Are Still Here joins a small, but growing, pantheon of modern “old-school” horrors that – in a sea of over the top, CGI-filled, by-the-numbers Hollywood horror – feel like a breath of fresh, but familiar, air.
Horror | USA, 2015 | 15 | Film4 Frightfest 2015 |Studiocanal | 19th October 2015 (UK, DVD) |Dir:Ted Geoghegan |Barbara Crampton, Andrew Sensenig, Lisa Marie, Larry Fessenden, Monte Markham |Buy: [DVD]