Review: We Are Still Here

In the cold, wintery fields of New England, a lonely old house wakes up every thirty years – and demands a sacrifice.

This year’s Frightfest guest of honour was the terrific Barbara Crampton. Making a comeback to both the big screen and the horror genre she appeared in no less than four films across the festival. The first of which was Ted Geoghegan’s homage to the likes of Lucio Fulci and Pupi Avati; a terrific ghost story with a dark and unpredictable twist at its core.

After their teenage son is killed in a tragic car accident, Anne (Barbara Crampton) and Paul (Andre Sensenig) move to a house in The New England countryside to start afresh. However they soon learn that there are evil spirits harbouring in their new house, spirits that wake up every thirty years and demand a sacrifice. Not only do they have this to deal with but they also discover that the town has some secrets of their own.

This tense and eerie ghost story is a slow burn with an impressive pay off that’s shocking and original. The plot gradually unfolds until its suspenseful climax. The location is deeply atmospheric with the house being in the middle of the country and the closest town is also creepy and straight away you know that something’s not quite right here. This is all down to a brilliant script.

Barbara Crampton is charismatic and delivers a strong performance as Anne. It is a joy to have her return to the big screen and fans across the festival were delighted to have the chance to speak to her over the course of the weekend. No stranger to Frightfest attire himself is Larry Fessenden (You’re Next and this year’s Pod) who also gives a great performance here as Paul and Anne’s friend Jacob Lewis who comes and visits with his wife Lisa Marie (the equally great May Lewis). The cast are brilliant and the story is simple yet thrilling. It ended up landing in a lot of people’s top five of the festival and it’s not hard to see why.

Im not sure why – but when someone says ‘its ok to laugh’ when introducing about a film you’re about to see, there is an unseen but expected burden on you to enjoy yourself and actually laugh out loud. Luckily, any expected burden put on us to enjoy We are Still Here wasn’t needed, not one bit. We laughed (when we should), jumped (when we didn’t see it coming) and then laughed at Mark jumping (which is pretty much a given at anything).

Reeling from the death of their son Anne and Paul move into a remote New England farmhouse. Cut off from the town and with only sporadic visitors, the loneliness and emptiness of the house lends itself to the story and situation as the apparitions begin to appear appear. As the film progresses and the apparitions reasons appear as the couple try and begin to communicate with what they believe is their son. Barbra Crampton takes the lead as  the grieving mother and delivers a stunning performance wrought with emotional anguish. A real highlight of the film for me was Monte Markham’s performance as neighbour/welcoming party Dave McCabe – one of the really brilliantly black comic performances in the film, who also later shows a much darker and twisted side, delivering both sides of the characters personality wonderfully.

Im going to be honest – ghost stories these days for my taste, often show way too much and ruin themselves. “Yay we have props and cgi and we can show it fill screen and it docent look crap!!!” So much for teasing the viewer, playing with their imagination and letting them fill in the blanks. For once a film is able to tease –  create a creepy atmosphere, hold my attention AND when the ghosts are shown, not only is this a case of show me more, BUT they are quite possibly one of the most stunning creations that I saw over the weekend at Fright Fest.

At its heart this is a ghost story with a twisted and darkened plot that from start to finish was a brilliant ride from start to finish. A real treat of a film, and one of the real highlights of Frightfest15 for me.

Following her triumphant return to the screen in You’re Next, Barbara Crampton seems like she’s well and truly back within the horror fold with no less than four films currently hitting the festival circuit. One of which is this tale of loss. And ghosts of course.

Anne Sacchetti (Crampton) and her husband Paul (Andrew Sensenig) are having to come to terms with a car accident which claimed their son. In an effort to try and get through the pain of their loss the Sacchetti’s move to a quiet New York suburb to start a new life. But all is not well with the house that they have moved into as dwelling within is a darkness born from its own suffering which has woken and has a thirst for blood.

We Are Still Here is a slow burn ghost story but never feels dull due to the fantastic performance from Crampton who holds the screen with magnetic ease in every scene she is in. It’s not the most complex of stories but it doesn’t need to be however in trying to create that mystery through withholding information for much of the films running time it ends up rushing the exposition coming towards the film’s climax. And it didn’t feel like the answers quite met the expectations the film had set itself. However this is actually a minor gripe and doesn’t particularly detract from the enjoyment of the film.

Within the walls of the house a few genuinely creepy set pieces are unleashed with some good scares in there. Intermixed with some well placed humour (and a great turn from horror legend Larry Fessenden) the film knows when to lull you into your false security before throwing a few bumps in the night your way.

Ultimately this doesn’t feel like something you haven’t seen before but it is done well and carries a sense of foreboding through it and is directed in a very measured and calm way that feels like it has fallen out of the Ti West approach to horror film making. Essentially dramas that just happen to contain ghosts, demons and the like.

For me this is what stands We Are Still Here out from the crowded ghost scene and makes it a stronger film. Had it gone down the current stylings for haunting stories then I would probably be writing a review for a decent but instantly forgettable piece of cinema. As it is I am writing a review for a film that I thoroughly enjoyed, even with its flaws, and would certainly go back for repeat viewing.

We Are Still Here is out on DVD and Limited Edition Blu-Ray from 19th October 2015




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