Greytober Reviews: We Are Still Here

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Time for my first haunted house movie of the season (because fuck The 13th Unit), and I can’t say I know much about this one, but hey, that’s half the fun of this. This one’s called We Are Still Here, and I’m hoping for something with legitimate horror.

Winter. That’s my takeaway from this opening scene, that it’s winter. Snow everywhere, and one car, so it’s winter in a really quiet area. Older couple, the woman looks like she’s been crying, and they’re moving. He looks like a high school science teacher. The house is old, middle of nowhere, and the wife finds a picture to hold on to tightly. She winds up putting it on a table in the hall, and it’s a younger guy that I’ll assume is their son.

What I really can’t tell is whether or not is how new this house is, since either that picture was there when they got there, she just used the frame, or I’m totally missing something.

Then they both go and drink. Him at a bar, her at home, and nothing has been said in a bit. Now they’re watching a movie, a breeze comes in, and that picture goes down. The title appears in red.

Next day, I think, and she’s unpacking some boxes that look like they belong to a son (comics, a trophy, relatively generic but it screams kid and not them), when she hears something. She winds up in the creepy basement before going up to reload that box, noise again, and back down she goes. This basement is not finished, like, it’s just nasty. I would not keep my things down there. There’s even a bit hole in the rocks. And lights? Forget about it, she has to bring a flashlight. Still, more noises, and this basement is a lot bigger than I thought. She finds a baseball glove with the name “Bobby” on it and then there’s more noise.

And then her sons ball rolls down the stairs.

OH SHIT! SHADOWY FIGURE BEHIND HER!

But she just clutches the ball and we cut to later. Fuck, that actually had me spooked for a second.

She’s having lunch/dinner with the husband later, and, well, her words, “I can feel him here”. Bobby is their son, and I think this is their second home or old home and they’re moving here because Bobby died and they were trying to get away from it.

That night the husband, I’m about to dig out names, is complaining to the electrician that the basement smells like smoke and to come out and do his job, when the wife comes in with the picture from earlier, which is now broken. She thinks it’s a sign because Bobby hated that picture. More noises, this time it’s people at the door. Neighbors, in the middle of nowhere.

Paul and Anne! I didn’t even have to look it up! Thanks neighbors! Apparently it’s been two weeks, and these are the first people they’ve met. The neighbors, Dave and Cat, talk about the house having a history, so this is a house new to them, that’s answered. The house is famous, but they keep talking around it. Back in 1859 the house was built for a mortician, who wound up sending out empty coffins and selling the bodies until he and his family were run out of town. They rush themselves out pretty quickly, both are spooked and seem to know far more than they should.

“It’s been thirty years since we’ve had fresh souls in Dagmar’s House.” Yes, that’s not ominous at all. Not one bit. They slip Paul a card ‘This house needs a family. GET OUT!’ Even more ominous.

Later on they’re in bed, and we see something shadowy move around downstairs by looking down the floor vents. Anne can’t sleep. Anne will probably get somebody killed before too long. She cuddles up to Paul to go back to sleep, we see a closeup of a picture of them with Bobby, then we see a shadowy figure with red eyes reflected back by it. With creepy music!

Next day we meet Joe the electrician, who is working down in the basement, More attention drawn to the hole in the foundation. Paul goes to see Anne, there’s booze out, and they’re talking about the weirdness. Anne wants to invite their friends May and Jacob up to visit because May likes the occult. Asking is a formality, Anne already did it.

Joe is working, lights cut, shadowy figure behind him by the steps and hole in the foundation, but it’s gone when the lights come back. They cut out again, he gets a flashlight, and he sees a shadowy figure scurry across the room. He goes looking for it, eventually finding something in a corner that leads to a bunch of burned people screaming and grabbing at him. Paul and Anne find him alive with some burns, which Paul thinks are because of the boiler that Joe was there to fix. Oh well, time for more whisky.

A picture falls off the wall and they smell smoke. Cut to later!

I’m assuming that the mortician and his family were burned alive, not run out of town.

May and Jacob are driving up and talking about it, and May wants to help, and Jacob doesn’t want to be judged, and I think he’s holding a doobie. They arrive, and mention that their son Harry is coming with his girlfriend. Harry was Bobby’s best friend and roommate, and May thinks that connection will help with the haunting she presumes to be Bobby.

Oh well, off to town to go get something to eat. Walk into a bar, literally everyone turns to stare at them. Really rude place. Like everybody knows something awful is going to happen to these people but nobody wants to tell them.

Harry and the girlfriend are driving, and that’s how we find out how Bobby died. Car crash driving home from school, hit by a flatbed.

Back at the restaurant they start telling May and Jacob about the couple that stopped by, and the story about the house, which leads May to immediately assume that the haunting isn’t Bobby. Well, at least she’s not bad at her fake job.

Harry and the girlfriend arrive to find the place empty, she’s freaked out, he thinks nothing of it because his parents are nuts. Sign on the door tells them where everyone is, but she doesn’t feel like going to join everyone in town so they head inside. Turn on some music, pour some scotch, just relax. I’d be shocked if they’re in one piece by the time everyone else gets home.

In town Paul and Jacob comment about how everyone there is giving them looks, Paul jokes about how the town has a history of mob justice...which would be a lot funnier if it wasn’t against his house.

Harry and girlfriend, whose name I still haven’t caught, are getting boozed up pretty well. There’s some noises! And I know that the adults are gone! Harry goes looking around, and the basement door pushes itself shut right in front of him, so of course he goes downstairs. OF COURSE HE DOES! Girlfriend is the smart one, not leaving the couch. Nope, nevermind, she follows him. And it’s super hot down there, steam coming out of the vent...and she sees something. He gets grabbed! This ashey corpse with white eyes gouges out his eyes while she runs like hell.

At the restaurant in town May has an awful feeling come over her, right as Harry seems to die, and back at the house girlfriend spends way too much time getting out. Can they go out in the snow? About to find out! Nope, she drives away. Rightfully freaked out. OH SHIT! THEY CAN GO OUTSIDE! One is in the backseat and just reaches through and impales her with its fiery arm. That car skips around and stops in the middle of the road. She dead.

CALLED IT!

At the house the music stops and the basement door slams shut. Also, the glasses are back where they belong.

So now the adults get back, and there’s no evidence that anybody has been there. The note is still on the window, so it looks like Harry and the girl just didn’t show up. So everyone gets back to drinking, and May is still a bit weirded out by her experience at the bar, but they get to talking about her talking to the dead for them. Paul is a non-believer, but Anne wants closure. Jacob is used to this all by this point, but whatever, May goes to bed.

Paul seems incapable of not drinking all the time.

Back at the bar, the bartender probes the waitress for what everyone was talking about at dinner. New people are extreme gossip. Someone knocks at the door, and that’s a gunshot. Waitress dead? It’s Dave and Cat, waitress is dead, bartender is sorry she didn’t get the door. He wants her to tell her everything that happened, but David is pissed. He was here when a family wasn’t given to the house years ago, and he won’t see that darkness spread across his town again. They’re going to ensure that everyone dies.

Back at the house they’re getting ready for the seance. May feels a darkness, and Jacob is stoned off his ass. May doesn’t feel Bobby, she thinks it’s a spirit pretending to be him to draw them in. They aren’t going to do the seance, May sees no point. The darkness is everywhere, and she doesn’t need to summon it to find it.

Dark and dirty basement is giving me chills after seeing zombies with a burning touch. Paul wakes up and sees feet standing outside the bedroom door. He asks if it’s Jacob or May, no response. May is twisting in bed getting a bad feeling. Paul’s door opens itself, nobody is there, and May wakes up screaming the word no and about there being so much death.

Paul wakes up screaming, having seen the charred corpses in his sleep, and Anne being one too. I jumped, won’t lie. Anne thinks it was Bobby. Paul just freaks out.

Next morning May mentions having an encounter, and Paul has to talk about what happened to him. Anne heard Bobby, because of course she did. Anne sucks, and she’ll probably last the longest. May wants to leave, and Anne needs to go get groceries, so they’re heading out. Time to thin out the herd a bit? Never has an “I love you” sounded so ominous. Almost like a good bye.

Paul goes to his den and sees Jacob setting up candles for a seance because of May freaking out. She wouldn’t approve, so he wants to do it now while she’s gone because it’s a terrible idea and he just wants to help his wife.

Anne and May are in town talking about the house now that they have some distance, and David shows up to talk to them because of course he’s staying close to make sure everyone dies. he doesn’t even try to downplay it, he talks about the darkness of the house, but May questions his story about the Dagmar’s being run out of town because she had her vision of the family. David looks worried but pretends like it’s nothing. Then the women leave, and he’ll probably be back soon.

Stoned Jacob leading a seance like he’s never done it before. “Try to believe that what we’re doing is real.” Jacob asks the spirit for a sign if it’s Bobby and they get a noise, though May already told them that something is pretending to be Bobby. Jacob asks the spirit to join them, and he deserves to get taken down next. He’s possessed, oh shit. He just welcomed the spirits to peel the skin off of Paul’s bones. Then he says he’s inviting his son to join them, and yeah, Jacob is messed up now. Speaking gibberish, and now he knows it’s not Bobby. An unseen force yanks him back across the room and keeps using Jacob as a vessel to talk about Harry and his girlfriend being dead in the basement.

“Burning like my whole family”

Jacob is fighting for control and begging Paul to tie him up, actual fear. Yeah, this is really creepy. The women get back, May is worried and no longer wants her son there...whoops. Paul asks for help, and can’t really explain it too well since he’s not a believer, and Jacob is possessed as hell eating a sock tied to a chair. May starts interrogating the spirit and the phone rings, and it’s Cat with a knife in her warning them that there’s something else to worry about. The spirit in Jacob brags to May about killing Harry, and then breaks its bindings and comes after them. May tries to get him back, but the spirit is furious about the people of the town killing his family.

Jacob is going to kill May.

Nope, Jacob fought back and killed himself to stop the possession. Stabbed himself in the eye. Paul screams that they need to leave, smartest thing I’ve heard all day. May opens the door and David blows her brains out with a shotgun. Paul and Anne go back inside, but they’ve got burning corpses staring them down, and townspeople charging the house. Bobby’s voice starts telling them to leave as the townspeople go inside. LEMMINGS! One dies almost immediately!

They want Paul and Anne, but they’ve got a long way to go through the fire zombies that are all over the main floor. Two nameless people down, and smoke everywhere thanks to the fact that the bodies burn. A third victim tries going up the stairs but gets pulled down through them, blood misting out the hole in the basement.  Another one gets pulled down under the kitchen table in front of the bartender, actually, that’s two in a row. This is great, like, absolutely awesome.

Townspeople are now running for their lives. Or dying. It’s a full blown massacre now. David shows up and tries to talk to one, asking why Paul and Anne are still alive. He says they have a job to do, and they let them there to do it, and to get it done...and there’s a lot more going on with him than I thought. The bartender comes up with a sickle and goes to kill Anne, but Anne sticks about three knives into her neck at once. Kinda overkill, but hey, I’ll take it.

David is the last man standing downstairs when they go back down, and he’s still got his shotgun. The fire zombies are behind him. He talks about how their son is there because they brought him, and that they need to accept their role. Every thirty years the house wakes up and demands bloods, and the town delivers...and then one of the zombies kills him. Thank god, I wanted answers, but he was such an asshole. That head gets caved in like a giant grape.

The fire zombies are what looks to be a dad and his children, and he puts his hands on their shoulders and looks at Paul and Anne, not murdering them outright like everyone else. Flickery lights and they’re gone. Like that will last.

This house is caked in blood. So is Anne. Paul mentions that they’re still there, and he’s jinxing himself. Has to be. Yup, Anne walks to the basement, where everyone goes to die. Paul goes and looks down the stairs.

“Hey, Bobby.”

The end.

The end credits have a bunch of old newspaper clippings from the time of the Dagmar scandal and fire, and the years the follow. The curse was a front page big letters headline for this small town. Apparently if the house wasn’t fed the town would suffer. Dead livestock, droughts, high miscarriage rates, the water turning black, plagues, missing children….jeez, this town was all around fucked if they weren’t sending people to die every thirty years.

Whoa, post credits. The den is all set up in the house, nobody in it, but a piano key is struck anyway.

Really really really enjoyed this movie. The unique casting went a long way to creating the atmosphere of the flick, as it was ridiculously refreshing to see a horror movie without a bunch of kids in it.

I’m not sure I’d have done the ending like that, with Bobby being off camera and in the basement, as I just kept picturing him as one of the charred up zombies, but the fact that Paul and Anne get a happy ending despite all the bloodshed of the third act was surprising, and I dug it. It almost would have been too easy to end the movie with everyone dead and the house zombies waiting for their next victims.

That said, nothing in the story indicates that they broke the curse, just that they were able to live in peace with the ghosts for now. There’s always thirty years later!

This movie was an experience, I’m totally recommending it to everyone for the rest of the month.

Final score: Nine burned and mutilated townspeople out of ten

Grade: 
4.5 / 5.0