The fifth film on my DVR was the 2015 haunted house film, We Are Still Here. I recorded We Are Still Here off of the SyFy channel on March 20th. Sad to say, I really can’t remember what I was doing or watching on March 20th while my DVR recorded one of the best horror movies of the previous year. I was probably watching something pn Lifetime. That usually seems to be the case.
But anyway, let’s talk about We Are Still Here.
As a self-professed lover of both horror and old grindhouse exploitation films, there is really no excuse for it to have taken me this long to see We Are Still Here. We Are Still Here is one of those wonderfully low-budget indie films that mixes a traditional genre — in this case, the haunted house film — with a far less traditional view of humanity. With its mix of bump-in-the-dark horror and cynicism about human nature, We Are Still Here feels like a mix of the Coen Brothers and H.P. Lovecraft.
Anne (Barbra Crampton, a veteran of horror films like Castle Freak and You’re Next) and Paul (Andrew Sensenig, who played the mysterious antagonist of Upstream Color) are a married couple who are struggling to deal with tragedy. Their son, Bobby, was recently killed in a car wreck. Anne is trapped in a prison of depression, while Paul just wants to move on with their lives. Hoping that it will help them to forget their sadness, Paul and Anne buy a house in New England.
(New England, not coincidentally, was also the home of H.P. Lovecraft, as well as being the setting for some of his best-remembered stories.)
But, of course, the house proves to be anything but therapeutic. From the minute they move in, Anne is convinced that they are not alone. With every mysterious sound and strange happening within the house, Ann becomes more and more convinced that the spirit of Bobby is with them.
If you’re a horror fan, you will not be surprised to learn that they are not alone. There is a presence in the house but is it Bobby or is it something far more sinister? Shortly after moving in, Anne and Paul meet their new neighbors. As friendly as they may be, there is definitely something off about Dave (Monte Markham) and his wife, Cat (Connie Neer). Dave tells them that the house was originally a funeral home an about how it was owned by the mysterious Dagmar family. The Dagmars were reportedly forced to leave town after it was learned that they were selling the bodies brought to them for burial and burying empty coffins. Could this have anything to do with the strange vibe that Anne and Paul both get from the house?
Despite Paul’s skepticism, Anne invites her friends, May (Lisa Marie) and Jacob (Larry Fessenden), to come for a visit. May and Jacob are both spiritualists and Anne hopes that they can contact Bobby’s spirit. Again, it’s not a spoiler to reveal that they do contact something. The surprise comes from what they contact and what happens as a result.
We Are Still Here is a chilly and dream-like film, one that wisely devotes as much time to creating and maintaining a properly creepy atmosphere as it does to all the expected scare scenes. When the presence in the house is finally revealed, it’s a scary moment but for me, the most haunting scenes in the film are the shots of the snow-covered landscape surrounding the house. The icy roads are as cold and unforgiving and as potentially dangerous as anything that might be living in the old Dagmar house. And, just as the weather cannot be controlled, neither can the paranormal.
We Are Still Here is a deliberately paced film. In fact, it’s probably a bit too deliberate to really be effective when viewed with commercial interruptions. We Are Still Here works because it creates an atmosphere of foreboding and certain doom and it’s hard to maintain an atmosphere when, every 20 minutes or so, the action has to stop for a commercial about Tide pods. To best appreciate this film and what it has to say about loss, faith, and delusion, it’s necessary to watch the story unfold without any pause to the narrative.
Fortunately, this intelligent and well-acted horror film is currently available on Netflix, where it can be viewed without commercial interruption! If you’re a horror fan, you owe it to yourself to watch.