Cleaning Out The DVR, Again #5: We Are Still Here (dir by Ted Geoghegan)


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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.

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Insomnia File No. 6: Frogs For Snakes (dir by Amos Poe)


What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

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If you were suffering from insomnia last night, at around two a.m., you could have turned over to Flix and watched the 1998 film Frogs For Snakes.

And if you were suffering from insomnia, watching Frogs For Snakes would probably have been a good idea because this film is amazingly dull.  In fact, I am not sure that I have the words to express to you just how tedious Frogs For Snakes truly was.  It may be necessary for me to go back to school and learn how to speak in a dead language in order for me to express the boredom that I felt while watching Frogs For Snakes.

And yes, I realize that I’m talking about an obscure film that was released nearly 20 years ago and it might seem kind of petty to, at this late date, make a big deal about how terrible this film was.

But seriously, Frogs For Snakes was really, really bad.  In fact, it was disturbing to think that a film this bad could have actually been made.  It was even more disturbing to consider that this film was apparently given a theatrical release and, all these years later, still pops up on cable so that it can proudly display its overwhelming mediocrity.

Now, I’m going to tell you what Frogs For Snakes is about and you’re going to think, “That actually sounds like it might be kind of interesting.”  Don’t be fooled!  The film may sound interesting but it’s not.

Frogs for Snakes takes place in a stylized, neo-noir version of New York City.  Eva Santana (Barbara Hershey) is an aging actress who claims to have quit the business, though it’s clear that it’s more a case of the business quitting her.  She talks about leaving New York and raising her son in a better environment.  However, until she gets around to leaving, she’s making ends meet by working as a waitress at a diner owned by the kind-hearted Quint (Ian Hart).  And, of course, when she’s not waitressing, she’s working as a debt collector for her ex-husband, a loan shark named Al Santana (Robbie Coltrane).

That’s right, this actress has a gun and she uses it frequently.  However, because Eva is good at heart, she rarely kills anyone.  Instead, she just shoots them in the foot and tells them to pay back their loans while they lay on the floor and scream in agony.  (All that agonized screaming got pretty old after a while.)

As for Al, he’s not just a loan shark.  He’s a theatrical impressario.  He’s planning on putting on a production of David Mamet’s American Buffalo.  He promises his driver a role in American Buffalo on the condition that the driver assassinate Eva’s new boyfriend (John Leguizamo, of course).

Soon, actors all over New York are literally killing to get a role in Al’s play.  Meanwhile, Eva just wants to retire and get out of New York but first, she has to do one last job for Al…

In between all the killing, the characters frequently launch into monologues that have been lifted from other films.  John Leguizamo does a Brando imitation.  Lisa Marie (Tim Burton’s ex, not yours truly) delivers the cuckoo clock speech from The Third Man.  A suggestion for aspiring filmmakers: if you’re going to make a bad film, don’t remind your audience that they could be watching The Third Man instead.

Anyway, the plot sounds interesting but none of the potentially intriguing ideas are explored.  I imagine that the film was meant to be a satire of Off-Broadway ruthlessness but ultimately, the film is just another tediously violent indie film from the 90s.  This is one of those movies where nobody can do anything without spending an excessive amount of time talking about it beforehand and, when things do turn violent, it’s the worst type of quirky, sadistic, drawn-out, “look how crazy we are” violence.

There’s a scene towards the end of the film where Al shoots a group of people in a bar.  This is intercut with clips from the Odessa Steps sequence from Battleship Potemkin.  As Al leave, he shoots the TV showing Battleship Potemkin and, I have to say, that really annoyed me.  Seriously, just as a bad filmmaker should not remind people that they could be watching The Third Man, he shouldn’t invite them to compare his film to Battleship Potemkin unless he’s willing to back up the comparison.  When Al shot the TV, I found myself hoping that Sergei Eisenstein would pop up and shoot him.

Frogs for Snakes is one of the worst films that I’ve ever seen.  It may, in fact, be the worst but I would need to rewatch Ted 2 before I said that for sure.  But, if you have insomnia, Frogs For Snakes will at least put you to sleep.

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice