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Fantasia 2015: ‘We Are Still Here’ – What’s not to love?

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Directed by Ted Geoghegan
Written by Ted Geoghegan
USA, 2015

Taking cues from late ’70’s /early ’80s horror (primarily director Lucio Fulci’s The House by the Cemetery and John Carpenter’s The Fog), writer/director Ted Geoghegan’s directorial debut We Are Still Here doesn’t break new ground, but serves as a suspenseful and well-crafted old-fashioned ghost story.

Geoghegan’s concept is pretty straightforward; a period piece set in 1979 about a married couple Anne (Barbara Crampton) and Paul (Andrew Sensenig) who relocate to a new home in rural New England after a car accident takes the life of their only son Bobby. The pair has hopes that a fresh start will bring them some closure only Anne feels a strange presence in the house and believes that her child’s spirit is following them. When spooky occurrences originate from the basement, and neighbor Dave (Monte Markham) shares horrid tales of the house’s previous owners, Anne and Paul enlist the help of their friend May (Lisa Marie), a self-professed psychic, and her hippie husband Jacob (Larry Fessenden) in order to make contact with whatever else is living in the old house. Though its underlying themes are familiar, We Are Still Here delivers a sometimes tense, at times silly, often gory, and always entertaining throwback to the fright flicks of decades past.

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For the first act, We Are Still Here plays out like a classic horror tale, the apotheosis of all “Old House” spooky films – richly atmospheric, beautifully crafted — and most of all creepy – something that’s bound to win over those with a taste for nail-biting suspense. Geoghegan demonstrates patience and skill in building mood and atmosphere and tastefully handling exposition while fleshing out his central characters. Those familiar with the horror genre know what to expect – people go down the dark cellar, all alone, and bad things start happening. Act two calls back to small town cultism as they learn more about community’s dark secrets. They share a few drinks, share a few laughs – tension mounts, and the townsfolk slowly begin to show their true colors. We Are Still Here’s first half feels like a slow burn in comparison to its second which shifts gears into demonic possession and culminates with an explosive grand finale that strangely, recalls the climax of Straw Dogs with ample amounts of blood, gore and bodies piling up. Naturally, if you don’t like the sight of blood splattering on screen, stay well clear.

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All four of the leads here deliver solid performances, but it’s prolific genre writer-director-actor Larry Fessenden who steals almost every single scene away from the beloved scream queen Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator and From Beyond). Fessenden shows his range as an actor, effortlessly switching from lovable stoner to a victim of demonic possession. Meanwhile, Cinematographer Karim Hussain’s simple but effective lensing steadily sprints across the house, from one room to the next, perfectly capturing the chaos that unfolds in the blood-soaked climax. In introducing the film, Ted Geoghegan called We Are Still Here a love letter to the films he grew up watching as a kid. While it functions as an entertaining little genre exercise, I can’t help but think this is just the start of a vibrant career. Let’s hope his sophomore effort comes sooner, than later.

– Ricky D


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