We Are Still Here (2015)
Editor’s Note: The following review is part of our coverage of the 2015 Boston Underground Film Festival. For more information on the festival visit bostonunderground.org and follow BUFF on Twitter @.
Horror is kind of in a strange space. There was a time when the medium truly resided in this area of counter culture. These dirty, grimy, and altogether alternative films indulged in violence with a surprising amount of brains. They were the opportunity to tell stories in a different way, but story still remained of the utmost importance. But like any genre that eventually gains popularity, a lot of current horror looks in the mirror and does not recognize its former self. First there was a deluge of sequels of exponentially diminishing quality, unnecessary crossovers, and then the gradual CW-ification of the genre where poorly delivered jump scares replaced rising tension, along with PG-13 ratings, found footage, and CGI blood. The good horror, which is experiencing something of a resurgence, gets buried in discount bins with the latest uninspired remake, cheapening the medium. We Are Still Here is a push to bring things back to those glory days.
There is an energy to the film, like a jittery middle-schooler that can’t wait for you to see what’s next.
We Are Still Here is a horror film for those well-versed in horror. Writer-director Ted Geoghegan’s love and excitement for the genre comes pouring through the screen. There is an energy to the film, like a jittery middle-schooler that can’t wait for you to see what’s next. You can just imagine Geoghegan inundating his actors with enough horror references and research material to keep them busy for the rest of their imaginable lives. He wants you to see the pictures he has in his head, to be as enamored with the capabilities of horror as he is. To say that a director loves his medium feels unnecessary, but in Geoghegan he uses that drive to its fullest extent. His ability to allow his own electricity to inhabit the viewer makes the entire film all the more appealing.
With all that being said, Geoghegan can get lost in his own mind when it comes to an exploration of the genre. The film positively overflows with sly winks and subtle prods at the tropes of the genre. The influence of gore king Lucio Fulci and the work of H.P. Lovecraft is occasionally so heavy handed as to leave one questioning how far homage can really go before it becomes something else entirely. It has the possibility to create a rift between the uninitiated casual viewer and the veteran, a scattered path of missed references separating middling confusion and deep admiration. You could compare it to a nearly Tarantinian level of homage, but the writing isn’t quite elegant enough to bring it to that plane.
But who cares about all of that deep film theory and history crap. At the end of the day this is a house horror film that, in its quest to entertain, largely desires to leave its audience quivering in fright. There is little denying that We Are Still Here succeeds spectacularly in this respect. Right from the outset, Geoghegan begins dropping little bits of intrigue. Like many a horror film, the beginning is filled with table setting and is a bit slower, but that is by design. Thankfully, it doesn’t get lost in the backstory, doling it out sparsely, while never losing sight of its goal to terrify. Even before things get crazy in the film’s final act, the scares are consistent enough to keep the viewer on the edge of his seat.
The blood and viscera explode in gleeful fountains just over-the-top enough to be both disgustingly shocking and a bit funny.
But oh that third act. As if giving the middle finger to every last film that says they can cut costs by just using CGI blood, the gore is magnificently executed. This testament to the strength of practical effects only uses CGI when it adds to the greater whole. The blood and viscera explode in gleeful fountains just over-the-top enough to be both disgustingly shocking and a bit funny. Adding to all of the dripping goo are the often ridiculous performances from a field of veterans. But the leads aren’t really the stand outs here. Rather its the supporting characters like Larry Fessenden as the delightfully strange Jacob, dancing this line between annoying and hilarious. Then there is Monte Markham, who lends a certain gravitas to what is assuredly some absurd and kind of goofily written exposition. Without that voice and total commitment to the odd personality of Dave McCabe, the character wouldn’t work and the film would feel a whole lot more derivative.
In We Are Still Here, first time writer-director Ted Geoghegan shows us all just why he loves horror so much. Like a wondrous love letter to the genre in the 70s and early 80s, the film feels both fresh and familiar. The story is well structured, with the scares occurring precisely and elegantly. In its execution it lives in a space between melodrama and all out mayhem that allows the tension to remain steady. Some of the elements of the story, particularly all of the mentioning of Anne and Paul’s lost son Bobby, are not quite effective and occasionally detract. Regardless, its pacing remains tight and it plays like a classic horror for a new generation. We Are Still Here is a celebration of the horror of a bygone era, with enough passion, inspiration, and elbow grease to show that it can still be bizarrely gross and terribly entertaining.
We Are Still Here is a celebration of the horror of a bygone era, with enough passion, inspiration, and elbow grease to show that it can still be bizarrely gross and terribly entertaining.