31 Days of Reviews: We Are Still Here (2015)

After the death of their son, a married couple leaves the city to move into a remote farm house in a small town. As soon as they arrive, they find that they aren’t alone.

We Are Still Here debuted at the SXSW festival in March 2015. I seem to be developing a pattern where I review a lot of films that debuted at this particular festival. Directed by Ted Geoghagen, his directorial debut, We Are Still Here stars Barbara Crampton and Andrew Sensenig as a married couple, grieving over the loss of their college aged son from a car accident.

After they move into their new home, Annie (Crampton) starts to see signs of a spiritual presence. She believes this presence to be her son, and she insists that he followed them from their home in the city to this new home, much to her husband’s disapproval.

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The first thing that really stuck out to me about We Are Still Here is that it’s set in the winter. You don’t often see horror movies set during this time of the year, which strikes me as odd because it can say many things. Winter supplies a cold, desolate landscape where most of the surrounding plant life is dead and dormant. Snow on the ground can imply purity, but can also speak to winter’s desolation. In the case of We Are Still Here, I felt that this winter landscape did a good job of reflecting the loneliness and grief that the family must be feeling after the loss of their son, especially the mother who has fallen into a depression after the incident. I’m unaware if the winter setting was intentional or not, but I thought it added a nice touch.

The next thing that struck me was the overall style of the film. The costumes, color schemes, and props all speak to a more classic vibe. I even felt that Barbara Crampton’s performance harkened back to Shelley Duvall’s performance in The Shining. This really solidified the old school horror feeling to We Are Still Here. Again, I’m uncertain if this was an intentional decision or just an accidental homage.

I’m not sure if the film ever says this (if it did, I totally missed it), but We Are Still Here is set in the year 1979. When I figured this out, it explained a lot of the stylistic choices. When you mix the classic styling of the film with the modern camera work and production techniques, it makes a really interesting combination. I was pretty hooked from the start.

As We Are Still Here begins, it seems like it will be a slow, independent feature. It seems like it will be one of those horror films where the scares are subtle. This gradually changes as the story progresses. The film begins with slamming doors and broken picture frames, then it amps up the scare level to shadow figures in the background and vengeful spirits in all of their spooky glory. By the end of the film, the scares are completely different, heading full speed into bloody disgusting and cathartically pleasing.

Horror movies don’t often star older actors and actresses as the main characters, so seeing a story centered around characters who weren’t all 20-somethings was a nice change of pace. In addition to Crampton and Sensenig, We Are Still Here introduces Lisa Marie and Larry Fessenden as May Lewis and Jacob McCabe, respectively. Their characters are similar in age to the main characters, and they are spiritualists. Annie invites them into their new home in hopes that they’ll be able to contact her son, or whoever the spirit is inside the house. Their presence ushers in a whole new set of plot points that take We Are Still Here to a whole other level.

We Are Still Here holds an astounding 95% on Rotten Tomatoes at the moment, and I’ve heard that it was one of the most critically acclaimed horror films of 2015. I would have to say that I agree. It goes about its story in a clever way, walking a fine line between horror and something a little more tongue-in-cheek. There are times when it feels a bit awkward, but overall, I really enjoyed it.

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