We Are Still Here (Ted Geoghegan, 2015)
[note: originally written 23Sep2015]
Ted Geoghegan got his start working with people like Andreas Schnaas (on Demonium and Nikos the Impaler) and Timo Rose (in Geoghegan’s defense, Barricade, the Rose movie he wrote, is some of Rose’s best work, not that that’s setting the bar too high), then went on to script the confusing, aimless Sweatshop. But at least Sweatshop looked good, even if it suffered from that same confusion and aimlessness. Given all that, one could be forgive for going into We Are Still Here, Geoghegan’s debut big-screen feature, with lowered expectations. And you should go ahead and do so, for that will make this atmospheric, slow-burn ghost story all that much more a pleasant surprise.
Plot: following the death of their teenage son, Paul (Upstream Color‘s Andrew Sensenig) and Anne (You’re Next‘s Barbara Crampton) Sacchetti move out of the city and find the perfect old country house; as their eager real estate agent (Baywatch‘s Monte Markham) tells them a number of times throughout the movie, “this house needs a family.” Everything seems to be going fine, save a few unexplained bumps in the night, until Anne begins insisting that she is seeing the ghost of their son, and the crazy branch of her family, May (The Lords of Salem‘s Lisa Marie) and Jacob (Session 9‘s Larry Fessenden) show up, ready to disturb whatever might be lurking in the house in their own clumsy way.
When I saw the movie, Ted Geoghegan was there for a Q&A, and a lot of the Lucio Fulci
references in this film (specifically to House by the Cemetery and The Beyond) are quite deliberate, and even if that sort of thing turns you off, remember how much better it would be than homages to Nikos the Impaler. There’s also the fact, at least in my head, that the addition of Larry Fessenden to any project, either in front of or behind the camera, is guaranteed to kick its quality up a few notches; even when he’s not directing, Fessenden has a way of pulling good performances out of the actors around him. Look at how much Sensening perks up when Fessenden appears. Some of that’s in-character, of course; by that time, Paul is relatively convinced Anne is going crazy, and if the nutzoids can help her in any way, he’ll take it. But there’s also more energy to his performance, and that can never be a bad thing.
Add all this to a script that is far heavier on atmosphere and off-camera creepiness than anything you should expect from any of Geoghegan’s influences and you’ve got yourself one fine little movie here. This is a director who, given his head, is going places. Catch him on the ground floor. *** ½
Gotcher trailer right here.