We Are Still Here (2015) **
D: Ted Geoghegan
C: Barbara Crampton, Andrew Sensenig, Larry Fessenden, Lisa Marie, Monte Markham, Susan Gibney, Michael Patrick Nicholson, Kelsea Dakota,
Plot Synopsis: Every 30 years, a lonely old house in the fields of New England wakes up and demands a sacrifice.
Review: When it comes to making a haunted house film, it's hard to bring something original or creative to this genre, because it's been done to death.
In We Are Still Here, we meet a mother & father who move to a rural farmhouse to escape the memory of their recently deceased son. As it turns out, their new home is haunted by some kind of entity that demands a sacrifice every 30 years so that the town surrounding the house can continue to prosper.
If you've seen your fair share of horror films, you can connect two and two together and figure out that this is pretty much the exact same plot as House by the Cemetery, but with a few minor tweaks. The film even makes constant references to House by the Cemetery. Just because you throw in references to the film your ripping off doesn't excuse it from being a ripoff. However, that wasn't my problem.
For a big chunk of the running time, nothing happens. The husband & wife move into a new house. They discover it's haunted and that's about all that happens for over half of the running time. They eventually get around to a story involving the townsfolk being in cohorts with each other in wanting to sacrifice the husband and wife to the house. Before this plot has had any chance to develop in any meaningful way, the townsfolk are running towards the house with pitchforks to make sure that this sacrifice occurs. The next thing you know, the townsfolk are being eaten alive, in graphically gory detail, by the entity that haunts the house.
I'm not against violence or gore, but haunted house films tend to work better with an ambiguous approach. With ghosts, people don't have concrete answers as to what or who ghosts are and why they haunt certain places. That's why ambiguity favors these types of films.
While the first half's story is rather skimpy, it's more restrained approach allows for some genuine tension to develop. The house looks eerie. The snowy atmosphere, that surrounds the house, becomes tangible. The cinematography is effective at conveying these feeling that we associate with horror. Then, when the film goes balls to the wall with the gore, all of that tension and unease is forsaken for gore effects for the sake of gore effects. Gore, in of itself, isn't scary. It's the feeling of dread leading up to gore that makes it an effective tool when used correctly.
To make matters worse, they try to close out on sentimental note involving the husband and wife's deceased son. This ending could've worked if that had been the guiding vision, but the deceased son sub-plot isn't a thought out story, but merely a device to get the main characters to the principal setting.
In breaking down the pieces, we have a story that mimics House by the Cemetery in a so called effort to be a homage to a cult classic. The first half tries to build up suspense. The second half gives into mindless gore. In some instances, it tries to examine the grief parents feel over a child's death. In others, it's a simplistic story involving a town with skeletons in their closet.
We Are Still Here wants to have its cake and eat it by trying to appeal to three different types of horror viewers - those looking for a homage, those looking for gore & those looking for something more subtle and suspenseful. By over extending itself to try and appeal to a variety of horror fans, the film doesn't do anything particularly well. As I've said before and many others have said, it's better to be something to someone vs everything to everyone. [R] 84 minutes.
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