Welcome to the debut of my 31 (+1) Days of Halloween! I plan on keeping these reviews short and to the point, but I'm sure some will be longer than others, so we'll see how that goes. I'll be MORE than happy to discuss additional thoughts in the comments, so feel free to ask questions or share your opinions, especially if you've seen the films.
The rating system is as follows: for computer-savvy folks, you'll know that there are 8 BITS in one BYTE. The perfect film will receive a full BYTE from us here at iByte Films. As you should know, very few films will ever receive a full BYTE, so they'll have to settle for whatever BITS we can give them. Now that we've had this primer, let's move on, shall we?
I chose We Are Still Here as my first movie. Personally, one of my favorite horror sub-genres is the HAUNTED HOUSE genre, and in a sense that's what this film is about. Sorta. I'm not going to give it away, but there is a bit more to it, and for me, that brought it to a different level.
The premise is one we've seen many times before. A grieving couple (Anne and Paul Sacchetti) looks for a fresh start after the untimely death of their son, and move to an old New England house. With fresh snow and a new town, the Sacchettis should be able to find some peace, right? But not at this house. It demands a sacrifice every 30 years, and no one has lived here in the past 30 years, so... go figure.
Set in the 70s, We Are Still Here is director Ted Geoghegen's first feature film, and a low-budget indie film as well. Geoghegan pays homage to a lot of old films from the 70s and 80s, and apparently to an Italian filmmaker, Lucio Fulci, whom I'm not familiar with. (Mental note - check out Fulci's films) But, I did notice some references to Poltergeist as well as Nightmare on Elm Street. See if you can find those.
I really enjoyed the special effects at the end. Sure, there are moments where it seems a bit much with the blood splatter, but from what I've read, that seems to be part of the Fulci influence. What really captivated me were the creature designs of the, um, "ghosts". Very well done.
The actors nailed the roles. Barbara Compton (Re-Animator) performs the part of Anne, the distraught mother. To prep for this role, she studied those who have lost a child. “It became quite heavy for her to constantly be thinking about the agony of losing a child,” says Geoghegan, “and there were days where it became so much for her that we’d actually have to pause and she’d have to take a few moments.” The research paid off. It doesn't stop there, as we see believable performances from others, namely Andrew Sensenig, Lisa Marie, Larry Fessenden, and Monte Markham.
Beautifully shot, this film contained a mixture of long and short takes and subtle distortions. Adding the color palette and ambient sound to the mix, the filmmakers managed to create an unsettling sense throughout the film, which is just what we want in a horror film, right?
While the story itself referenced several horror films in the past, it managed, for me at least, to provide a unique flavor to the haunted house genre. It was, at times, predictable, but that was okay, and forgivable. Overall, the combination of the location, special effects, actors' performances, the cinematography, and the story, I have to say this is one worth watching.
Fun to watch, and clocking in at 84 minutes, it's short and sweet. Just don't expect to be blown away, especially if you are a seasoned horror film viewer.
My overall score? 5 bits out of 8.
Click the link below to find out where you can watch this tonight. It's streaming on Netflix now for those of you who are Netflix subscribers.