After a tragic car accident leaves them mourning the loss of their son, Anne (Barbara Crampton) and Paul (Andrew Sensenig) move to a new home in rural New England to start anew and seek some closure. However, before they can flee screaming “Helllllll no!” at the top of their lungs, the weirdness begins. Frames fall over and break. An electrician gets burned by silhouetted beings lurking beneath the home’s floor boards. (Flee already, damn you!) In the home’s long-standing history, something has definitely gone awry.
But the deeply depressed Anne doesn’t want to run away. She claims that their son Bobby has traveled with them to their new home and is the reason for all the bumps in the night. But while a psychic friend attempts to figure out the house’s bad juju, it appears there are far darker and more sinister forces at work, which is more or less confirmed after a neighbor comes by to hint at the home’s (and town’s) dark past.
There’s so much to like about We Are Still Here, a haunted house horror film that released earlier this year after premiering at South By Southwest. Yes, Crampton is a big pull here for the horror geeks out there. Crampton appeared in 2011’s well-received You’re Next, but is far more renowned for 80’s fare like Re-Animator and Chopping Mall, and later, Rob Zombie’s Lords of Salem. Crampton plays the grief-stricken Anne like she’s made of glass, her disposition afflicted by a seasoned morosity. The audience feels for her, hoping that her desire of being reunited with her dearly departed won’t morph into her fatal downfall.
The film is visually dreary, beautifully encapsulating what upper state New York looks like in the dead of winter, and adding to the already mood-heavy atmosphere. Tension builds nicely as things start to go haywire and the ghostly presence makes its presence known. Jump scares are abound, but cleverly executed; they never feel like cheap ploys to boost the creepiness factor, nor do they chase pre-existing formulas or tropes. The tension is naturally embedded into the film’s groundwork, and before you know it, you’re holding your breath and sitting at the edge of your seat.
By the end of the movie, director Ted Geoghegan really lets the blood flow, giving the movie a nice balance for horror fans who love both contemporary and retro-style scares. Influenced by the works of Lucio Fulci, We Are Still Here is a retro-throwback at its core, yet it’s one that doesn’t fully rely on what’s been done before as a crutch, but rather twists up the formula to add its own patchwork on the ol’ haunted house narrative. If only every horror movie could have such a cognizant grasp of what’s already been done, without fear of pushing boundaries while paying homage to the greats. Grade: A-