We Are Still Here is a slow creeper of a movie that ratchets up to a gorefest of an end that is weirdly, viscerally satisfying. Paul (Andrew Sensenig) and Anne (genre veteran Barbara Crampton), grieving over the death of their son in a car accident, move into an old farmhouse outside a small town. Weird Things begin happening, and shortly we are introduced to the Dagmars, a relentlessly nasty family of ghosts who want their house back. Which would be bad enough… except that the townspeople want Paul and Anne as sacrifices to whatever dark forces are buried beneath the house. Faced with ghosts on one side and murderous townspeople on the other, Paul and Anne are in a world of hurt.
It took me a while to warm up to We Are Still Here. This is because there is exactly one sane person in the entire movie: the hapless husband Paul, who not only has to deal with the fact that his son has died in an accident but also has to put up with his batshit wife, who is convinced her son is haunting the 1800s-era farmhouse they bought to get away from the trauma of his death. Everyone else in the movie – from the townspeople to the Woodstock refugees (Lisa Marie and Larry Fessenden) who come by to have ill-advised seances and drop the obvious news that Something Is Wrong in the house – is straight-up nuts, and that made it hard to really find anyone to identify with right out of the starting gate. Mostly I spent the first part of the movie wondering what in the fuck I was watching.
I’m glad to report, however, that the cray grows on you. First Marie and Fessenden, whose “OMG THE WEIRD ENERGIES” schtick actually becomes sort of endearing. Then the nutty townspeople, who are the personification of pretty much everything that terrifies urban dwellers about small-town America, reaching their creepfest culmination in Monte Markham’s horrifying town elder, who is willing to do pretty much anything to appease the Lovecraftian darkness apparently dwelling underneath the farmhouse – including making excuses for the mysterious disappearance of the Dagmar family, who are the real ghosts still inhabiting the house. Then the Dagmars themselves, who I was waving the pennant for by the end of the movie, because those people know what the hell they are about and even the kid disembowels people with style. I even finally – admittedly in like the last ten minutes of the movie – made my peace with Anne, whose weepiness and slightly bulgy eyes were irresistibly reminiscent of a low-rent Shelley Duvall in The Shining.
We Are Still Here feels like an homage to 70s horror – oddly enough, I got a real Burnt Offerings vibe from it – and its affectionate campiness culminates in a gloriously over-the-top slaughter that fades skillfully down into a quiet, ambiguous ending. There’s really something for everyone here. If, like me, you give it the side-eye for the first hour or so, keep going; everything comes together beautifully by the end.
So what’s the verdict? Four stars. This movie is a lot like an old house itself; it might smell a little fusty at first, but there are so many little architectural grace notes, so many unexpected and charming rooms and hallways, and overall such a sense of satisfaction and homecoming, that you won’t even be mad about having to replace the boiler.