I love a good anonymous horror flick. How anonymous is We Are Still Here, the movie from writer/director Ted Geoghegan? The plot summary on Wikipedia currently sits at 152 words as I write this. That’s it. In this day and age, a film really has to fly under the radar to get such a sparse entry on a site whose editors can be quite verbose.
We Are Still Here takes place in snow-covered New England in the year 1979. Husband and wife Paul and Anne Sacchetti (Andrew Sensenig and Barbara Crampton) have relocated from the city following the death of their college-aged son in a car accident. They have chosen to move into a century-old house on the outskirts of Aylesbury, one of those insular New England towns that populate fiction. It’s full of people who have known each other since birth, and is very mistrusting of outsiders.
Like all small towns in a horror film, this one has a dark secret. Long ago, the house the Sacchettis purchased was home to the Dagmar family, who were accused by the townsfolk of selling human bodies to medical schools and Chinese restaurants in Boston. After facing some small town retribution, a curse was placed on the house and any poor souls who occupy it.
The film doesn’t waste much time getting going. And this despite a look and feel at the start that was very much Ty West-ian. I was prepared to settle in for a film that was all mood and little payoff, relying on characters and strong photography to carry the production. Instead we viewers get an unambiguous ghost story, the specters haunting the Sacchetti homestead active and very angry.
Geoghegan doesn’t waste much time with the normal ghost film setup, with books falling off of shelves or kitchen cabinets opening on their own being the only ghostly manifestations for the first act. Nope. Not more than a few minutes after the Sacchettis set foot in their new home, we see that the basement is not the best place to hang out.
Anne picks up on the haunting and thinks that it is the spirit of her son that has accompanied them from the city. Her husband is, of course, skeptical. Not long after, Anne invites her friend May and her stoner husband Larry (Lisa Marie and Larry Fessenden) to stay the weekend at the house. May is a real crystal-rubbing hippie, convinced she can communicate with spirits. It turns out she isn’t full of shit, and it begins to dawn on the group that there is true evil in the home. This sets up a finale that flies wildly away from the general tone of the film, but was satisfying nonetheless. A little more subtlety may have been useful, but it did fit right into all the setup that came before.
The film was served well by the main cast members. Crampton and Sensenig were the rare leading couple in a horror film who are middle-aged, which gave the benefit of maturity to their characterizations. Crampton did very well portraying a mother going through some very profound grief, the sorrow only leaving her eyes when she thought about the spirit of her dead son being with her. Fessenden was his normal, borderline manic self. Seeing him in a horror flick that required a mostly straight performance was a bit of a change. He did manage to sneak some levity into his role, and did well to make sure it never felt out of place.
Ghost films must be hard to make well, if the quality of most productions is any indication. It’s a bit of a mystery why, considering most start from a basic template. We Are Still Here uses that template, then goes absolutely insane at the end. For every ten shitty ghost films, a real gem gets made. This is one of those gems.