Continuing the contemporary trend of hopelessly unabashed nostalgia, Ted Geoghegen’s We Are Still Here is a love letter to classic 70’s haunted house movies with a superb cast of cult stars.
In an attempt to escape the pain of their son’s death, Anne and Paul Sacchetti (Barbara Crampton and Andrew Sensenig) have just moved into a new house on the cold fields of New England. Sensing that her son might have followed them, Anne begins to deal with the possibility of contact with her son. Unknown to the Sacchietti’s, their new home has ghosts of its own.
Initially, the film throws up intriguing possibilities. Anne demands that the movers put her family pictures in exactly the same rooms they were in the last house; is she trying to bring her son’s ghost with her? If so, cool. But no, We Are Still Here is a lot simpler than it tries to be. The house itself is a hungry presence dying to consume a family every thirty years. The specifics of the haunting are left out. Its fine to skimp on the answers, but for a self-aware, reflective haunted house film, you can’t help but expect a little more.
The elements of a classic 70’s haunted house tale are all here and consistently visually impressive, fantastic costumes and décor all work to pull us back in time. However, the film makes too many narrative decisions that don’t make sense, not least when Markham’s character randomly shoots a young woman for little more than a good villain entrance, which Markham then repeats at the finale in a far more shocking manner. Similarly, the film’s plot is essentially spoon-fed in one dismal scene of exposition which is repeated almost word-for-word in the finale. Tighter editing might have fixed some of these issues and built a more riveting mystery.
The film does merit some kind of pass for its silly moments. The dialogue is often droll, even terrible, but spoken by some of the hoakiest legends of the biz, it pulls off fine. For instance, one can’t quite pull up Lisa Marie for being an awful actress because she’s always been awful. There’s a reason Tim Burton never gave her a wealth of lines. Yet, it works in the context of this Hark-back haunted house tale. Cult auteur Larry Fessenden looks like he’s having a great time (especially in a part-cringe, part genius possession) whilst prolific US TV star Monte Markham makes a terrific classic antagonist. Crampton (From Beyond, Re-Animator, You’re Next) is an absolute gem though, carrying much of the film’s emotional and thematic discourse even when Geoghegen seems to muddy his message.
By the end, Geoghegen proves he’s gagging to unleash some old-school chaos on the small-minded denizens of this fateful New England town. The house itself becomes a macabre murder weapon, eviscerating hoodlums with glee in a scene vaguely reminiscent of Cabin in the Woods “purge” sequence, only way smaller. But this end seems so far from the careful, studied opening that it’s almost like we are watching the end of a different film. The question of parenthood, of being left behind, is confused by a last minute reveal which has you wondering why the house killed anyone at all. Murder and mayhem don’t quite fit in with all those long tranquil shots of the frozen countryside. But then maybe that’s the point, maybe Geoghegen wants his nostalgia trip to hit the outlandish camp notes as well as the sincere scary ones.
An often creepy trip back in time with some of the most watchable cult stars working today, Crampton delivers a superb performance which surpasses much of her classic work, whilst Geoghegen shows he’s a smart and savvy talent in his debut directing gig. It’s a shame there’s some issues because We Are Still Here has all the making of a classic.
Dir: Ted Geoghegen
Stars: Barbara Crampton, Andrew Sensenig, Larry Fessenden, Lisa Marie, Monty Markham