Review: A ghost story that won’t let the past die in ‘We Are Still Here’

We Are Still Here posterIn the new haunted house horror We Are Still Here, Anne and Paul Sacchetti move to a small New England town to make a fresh start following the death of son Bobby.  Anne believes that Bobby’s spirit is in the house reassuring her that everything is hunky dory. After she and Paul enlist their new age friends Jacob and May to visit and ease their minds, they realize something much older is lurking and poised to rear it’s ugly head. The past does not want to stay in the past.We Are Still Here house stillRight off the bat, the camera work displays an “I’m not alone” feeling with handheld, over the shoulder and around the corner shots that set the tone for the entirety of the film. Establishing shots of each room and the snow covered acres surrounding the property itself, give you a definitely isolated sense. 10 minutes in, our first real set up moment, an object from the past and a blink-and-you-miss-it jump scare of classic proportion. Not bad, not bad at all. Writer/Director Ted Geoghegan, clearly with a crush on the classics good and bad, knows his stuff. The story moves along at lightening pace, laying out a small town’s history mired with sadness, rumors, and evil. We Are Still Here pays homage to films like Amityville and Poltergeist. Films with an unshakable past that seem to be well known by the locals and end up terrorizing the newbies. The practical effects are gold and vomit inducing for sure, but the use of the seamless CG takes the film to another level. We Are Still Here still Lisa and LarryFlawlessly held together with a stellar cast of genre greats, We Are Still Here is an instant classic. Barbara Crampton‘s Anne is grounded, loving, and searching for comfort. Andrew Sensenig‘s portrayal of Paul is as masculine and protective as you can get, without losing that caring husband edge. Larry Fessenden as Jacob is funny and vivacious. Lisa Marie plays May with an airy realness of someone who is actually a sensitive. The four leads work so well with one another, I cannot imagine a different cast. Fun Fact: Both Barbara and Larry recently appeared in the 2011 horror/thriller You’re Next (Another film I would recommend). The music is quiet and looming like that of a small wind chime, and truly adds the the eerie factor. The color scheme of the surrounding dank New England winter (one I grew up with myself) makes the eventual appearance of bright red blood all the more visually impactful. The set dressing is top notch. The house appears untouched since the film’s set 1979 date. Old houses creek, we all know this to be true, but the timing of the sound editing ramps up the natural inclination that maybe you shouldn’t hang out long in a dusty old basement. We Are Still Here Barbara CramptonA few obvious takeaways from this movie: 1. Don’t trust your creepy neighbors, 2. Shit starts flying off the walls you should just assume the worst, and 3. Don’t ever, ever mess with the dead. There are 1000 more things I could praise about this film, thing is, I really  just want you to go see it for yourselves! We Are Still Here arrives in theaters and on VOD today, June 5th. Go get your spooky on.

‘The Ladies of the House’ serves up the smart and sexy. Liz talks flipping the script on genre protagonists.

LOTH posterTypical horror gene fair has the protagonist as a weak young woman who is constantly running up the stairs only to get stabbed during sex or in the shower. While I am not making a dig at Psycho, because we all know that is will always be some brilliant and sick stuff, I am bringing up the obvious that women in horror tend to be the victims. Refreshingly, in John Stuart Wildman‘s The Ladies of the House, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The premise seems relatively simple; brothers Kai and Jacob, and friend Derek, go to a strip club for Kai’s birthday. But, when they decide to follow one of the strippers as she departs, they are in for quite the surprise. This house is home to a group of lovely cannibals.LOTH wasabe - belladonna- MichellePerformances by our leading ladies are strong and quirky due to the smart writing from husband and wife team of Wildman and Justina Walford. The often funny moments come from vitriolic insults they sling at the men and one another. Each character is fully fleshed out, most likely making it a blast to perform. Michelle Sinclair plays Ginger. Perhaps best known as former adult actress Belladonna, Michelle does a great job on screen as newest housemate. Farah White plays Lin (our June Cleaver mommy monster, whose patience and civility are balanced on a razor thin edge) is fully settled into this role. The “Lady of the House,” Getty, is played stupendously by Melodie Sisk. This “take no shit” gal is pretty much my favorite performance of the entire film. Brina Palencia is our sex-crazed, emotionally-stunted lovely. Keeping men for play is her game. But can this family survive these feisty gentlemen? Speaking of which, Samrat Chakrabarti, as Derek, is real douchebag. No love lost for this total asshole, which in its own right, is a compliment. Gabriel Horn, as Jacob, plays the classic, submissive peacemaker. Doomed or not, the passive manner doesn’t help his character’s cause in this film. Finally, we have Kai. Clearly a little bit (or a lot) of a simpleton, RJ Hanson‘s portrayal is sickening… which is a good word here. This gentle giant has a sexually charged trigger that gets him into some hot water. Every beat is well thought out and I couldn’t  take my eyes off of him.LOTH stillThe ladies each have their own specific color they sport throughout the film. Their pin-up style radiates from their wardrobe to the impeccable set design by Winona Yu. The majority of the house is like Pee-Wee Herman‘s Playhouse only scarier, and I do mean that as a compliment. Not a tchotchke out of place, it is filled with delicious details top to bottom. The super cool cinematography from Beau Ethridge is a funky combination of fly on wall, handheld closeups, and my favorite shots in the film, super high angles that are akin to surveillance footage. The biggest practical effect is vomit inducing, no doubt, something Eli Roth would be proud to call his own and a dinner table scene that is surely a fandom nod to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with dialogue Taratino would pen in a heartbeat. I was truly impressed with the gore factor as it was just enough to make a point. The music is incredible. A rockabilly tune here, to classic 50’s make out sounding mix tape there, I want it all for my very own. THE LADIES OF THE HOUSE - Farah White as 'Lin' and Melodie Sisk as 'Getty' (Photo by Marc Lee)While, yes, we’re talking about a grindhouse indie film about lady cannibals, we cannot overlook the empowerment factor so often thrown to the wind in the horror genre. When women kick some serious ass, and are cleverly written, how can we not stand up and cheer? This film’s undertone is blatantly about love and protection… with a little bit of the kooky macabre thrown in for good measure. Not since Robert Rodríguez/Tarantino‘s 2007 GRINDHOUSE with Planet Terror and Death Proof, which flung the exploitation genre back into the spotlight, has there been a film where the ladies are the winner-winner, this time human dinner. Or perhaps more fitting a comparison in this case would be 2003 release High Tension, which if you haven’t yet seen, for shame. My only gripe is that I might trim the length 15-20 minutes to tighten up the story’s flow, but that’s being nit-picky. Anytime I can watch my favorite genre hold a candle to a bygone era of kitsch, I give Wildman and Walford major props for putting it all out there and for giving us something that can easily be shown as a drive-in cult classic in the future. Now I want to know, what’s next?

The Ladies of the House comes to VOD platforms on May 1.

You can preorder the film on iTunes.