We Are Still Here (2015) [Blu-ray review]

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2015-10-06 20:08
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We Are Still Here (2015)
Studio: Dark Sky
Release date: October 6th, 2015

Reviewed by: Brett Gallman




The movie:

Nobody could raise hell like Lucio Fucli, but that hasnít stopped folks from trying. While you donít see the Maestro overtly imitated nearly as much as, say, John Carpenter (because holy shit, could you even imagine trying to directly imitate Fulci?), his influence casts a long shadow over the genre even 20 years after his death. His spirit practically haunts every frame of We Are Still Here, Ted Geogheganís icy New England ghost story set on a blood-soaked threshold of hell.

Those familiar with Fulciís work will recognize the desolate, snowbound landscape as an echo of the directorís own attempts to transform rural New England into a purgatorial netherworld in House By the Cemetery and City of the Living Dead. After losing their son to a tragic car accident, Anne (Barbara Crampton) and Paul Sacchetti (Andrew Sensenig) move to a remote corner of the northeast haunted by an old legend. Oblivious, the couple has actually moved onto ground zero, as their vintage, creaky home is a conduit for supernatural activity. At first, Anne is convinced her son is reaching out from beyond the grave; however, visits from kooky neighbors, disconcerting looks from the locals, and dangerous basement encounters soon confirm something malicious lurks below.

We Are Still Here confirms the argument that films need not be terribly original to be effective. Its familiarity is undeniable, as the cinematic ghosts of Fulci, Stephen King, and Amityville linger throughout, shading the proceedings without overwhelming them. What Geoghegan has crafted is a love letter, but itís not so infatuated with its influences that it doesnít strike out and stake its own claim in this genre. Heís conjured spirits via a celluloid sťance but doesnít feel beholden to them.

Striking the balance between imitation and reverence is difficultóweíve seen so many exercises in homage become swallowed by their own misguided obsession to reanimate corpses that they forget to inject life into them. This is not the case with We Are Still Here, a film thatís only vaguely couched in the general idea of Fulciís famous works (read: a bump-in-the-night haunted house movie escalates to a symphony of exploding torsos and blood geysers set against a ghastly mythology) and adds its own embellishments with strong performances and razor sharp editing.

Crampton and Sensenigís somber turns are immediately compelling, while the surrounding cast (including Larry Fessenden and Lisa Marie as a couple of New Age mystics) draws the audience in even further. Before you know it, however, Geoghegan has unleashed hell upon everyone with a climax that doesnít drip with gore so much as it has blood and entrails falling from it in messy piles. As it reaches its crescendo, We Are Still Here trades in the feverish nightmare logic of Fulci for something a bit more lucid but nonetheless visceral. In many ways, itís the ideal blend of character-driven 70s haunted house horror and the dreamy, gut-spilling splatter shows of vintage Eurohorror. Itís a crazy quilt, albeit one thatís been elegantly stitched and delicately positioned as a tapestry over the gates of hell.

The disc:

If you were to build a case arguing that the independent horror scene is thriving in light of a comparatively anemic mainstream slate, We Are Still Here would be a prime exhibit. While itís one of the best films of the year, itís been confined to a limited theatrical release and VOD platforms ahead of this weekís DVD/Blu-ray release from Dark Sky. The disc features a terrific presentation, as an already gorgeously macabre film is faithfully represented with a stunning transfer. Likewise, the spooky, atmospheric sound design will envelop your living room via a 5.1 DTS-MA soundtrack thatís equal parts aggressive and subtle.

Headlining the extras is a commentary with Geoghegan and producer Travis Stevens, both of whom are rising stars in the horror ranks. The duo also features in a 7-minute behind-the-scenes supplement, which is joined by a teaser, a full trailer, and previews of other Dark Sky releases.

When I visited Los Angeles back in June, We Are Still Here was actually the first movie I saw in a theater (a nearly private, late-night screening at Laemmleís Music Hall 3), making this is the rare occasion that I could actually support independent horror on a big screen (youíve no doubt heard me bemoan this a few times during the past few years). Usually, Iíd just now be coming around to heaping praise upon the pile, but, in this case, I can actually echo myself: as I watched the film unfold in those sweltering summer months, I couldnít help but think We Are Still Here would be even more effective against a chilly October backdrop. Four months later, I canít help but confirm it: We Are Still Here is an incredible horror film, and its powers are only magnified by the Halloween season, making it a surefire horror-thon staple for years to come.
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