The horror genre is kind of a dying genre, a literally tried-and-true category of cinema, where filmmakers are constantly trying to think up new ways of scaring moviegoers. The haunted-house group obviously qualifies as an attempt to revitalize horror cinema. There are films that have successfully taken us by surprise, including Ti West's The House of the Devil and The Innkeepers, and James Wan's The Conjuring and Insidious; while others such as Courtney Solomon's An American Haunting, have almost destroyed the entire landscape with half-baked attempts at supernatural hauntings and possessed victims. Fortunately, Director Ted Geoghegan 2015's modern masterpiece We Are Still Here, gives new and unique life to an otherwise cliched format. Obviously influenced by the works of Lucio Fulci and of Nicholas Roeg's classic Don't Look Now, Geoghegan puts a terrifying spin on old-fashioned ghost politics while creating new trends to explore.
The story is set in 1979, where Anne and Paul Sacchetti (brilliantly played by Barbara Crampton and Andrew Senseng), move to New England to process the tragic death of their child Bobby. As they settle into a creepy and isolated farmhouse, Paul believes that this will be a new start for both of them, especially for Anne, whose grief over the death leaves her in a deep depression. Instantly, she suspects a presence in the house, in which she thinks that it's Bobby trying to contact them.
Things get weird when they are visited by their kooky new neighbors, Dave (an excellent Monte Markham) and Cat (Connie Neer), who inform them that the house was previously owned by a family of undertakers, the Dugmars, who brought about the townspeople's anger after they were caught burying empty coffins and selling the bodies for profit.
It gets even creepier when their electrician nearly gets burned alive while trying to fix the boiler in the basement. This causes them to call their friends. Jacob (a standout Larry Fessenden) and May (an impressive Lisa Marie), the parents of Bobby's college roommate, who come to offer help as May puts her supposed psychic abilites to good use.
Also thrown into mix are Jacob and May's son and his girlfriend, who also show up to offer support. But unfortunately for them, they become the house's first victims in really grisly ways. When the evil starts to truly esclate, and after Jacob and May are killed, Anne and Paul have to find the strength within themselves to fight and stay alive. They also have to finally find peace and accept the fact that Bobby is gone.
Although the plot of the film is a slow burner, it has enough balance to keep viewers on the edge of their seats. Moments occur where you least expect them, and cliches are turned inside out. The widescreen cinematography gives off an unusually haunting air of dread throughout the entire film, and is one of the reasons why it works in so many ways. The villains of the film, the Dugmar family, make truly terrifying creatures and come at you at neckbreak speed; they are really a sight to behold.
What impressed me most, besides the extremely gory finale, is the acting. Horror icon Barbara Crampton gives a perfomance of absolute conviction, where you truly believe her character Anne is truly suffering so much pain by her son's death that you don't know if she'll ever recover from it. Andrew Senseng is a relevation as Paul, a father who seems tough on the outside, but who is really vulnerable on the inside. His performance totally matches Crampton's. Fessenden and Marie truly shine as the New Age hippies who dabble in seances with odd conviction. However, as amazing as everyone is, the real star is 79-year-old Markham in his first horror film, where he definitely sinks his teeth in the role of Dave, a man who is not what he appears to be.
Despite the limited amount of special features, the Blu-ray from Dark Sky Films delivers. The picture and sound are incredible, as they should be. There is the original theatrical trailer, a teaser, and a great seven-minute featurette called We Are Still Here: Building a Haunted House, which is a behind-the-scenes piece about how the story, casting, and location came together. The real grab is the audio commentary with Geoghegan and producer Travis Stevens, which is an unusually illuminating piece as they talk more about the actors, the story, shooting in rural New York, the scenes, and everything else in between. In my opinion, this is one of the better commentaries I've ever heard.
What can I say, except I was truly knocked out by this modern horror classic, because it is so creepy, devilishly entertaining, and very smart. You don't get this type of filmmaking from mainstream Hollywood horror films that are forced down your throats these days. It gives the horror genre a much needed boost, and says that there is still life is this often misunderstood trope of film.