'We Are Still Here' Bleeds Old-School Horror

The wrenching pleasure of a grindhouse-style throwback.


The first night in their new house, Paul and Anne’s neighbor shows up on the doorstep uninvited. He seems friendly. They let him in to sit on the couch and they pour him a drink. He takes a sip and asks whether the realtor told them about the family that built this house and about the bodies. Nasty business that. Heh heh heh.

I love shit like this with old houses far from town, unquiet secrets, and characters wading into the dark. If I were watching We Are Still Here in a theater instead of on a laptop I would’ve scooted to a closer row.

Low-budget indie horror has been having a good run recently — The Babadook and It Follows and Starry Eyes. We Are Still Here belongs in that conversation. It came out in June, but feels like the kind of film that would’ve played on a double bill in a sleazy grindhouse theater in ‘70s midtown New York (that I worry have never been as real as they are in the hazy lens of Quentin Tarantino’s imagination).

Paul and Anne (Andrew Sensenig and Barbara Crampton) have enough darkness to deal with it as it is. A middle-aged couple, they’ve moved to a new town to try and get past the death of their son. Strange things start happening, and Anne thinks they may be sharing their new home with someone familiar. Luckily, they’re friends with a couple who is well-versed in seances and Ouija boards who can come over for the weekend and figure out whether it’s their son playing tricks with the furnace, or something more sinister slithering behind the walls of the cellar.

The first hour of We Are Still Here might get some snickers from certain types of sophisticated cinephiles who recognize the old tropes and cliches of a town built over ancient evil. Those people are watching the movie wrong. You need those beats the way Swan Lake always needs the princess to fall in love with the prince. The measure of a movie like this is whether those movements are done with a lot of style and mood, and here that’s achieved. Then all hell breaks loose. By then, you’ve migrated to the front row, where you cower to the very back of your seat.

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