Warning: This article contains some spoilers for the horror film We Are Still Here.
For We Are Still Here, director Ted Geoghegan opted for greater character depth to bring a ghost story to the big screen that successfully combines chills and gore in a wintery setting that reinforces the feeling of desolation so essential to the film. Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator, You’re Next) and Andrew Sensenig (Upstream Color; I Love You, Phillip Morris) star as We Are Still Here‘s married couple Anne and Paul Sacchetti, who are seeking the solitude of a New England country home following the tragic loss of their son. Anne’s feeling that they may not be alone in the house prompts her to invite New Age friends Jacob and May (Larry Fessenden and Lisa Marie) to help investigate with disturbing results.
We Are Still Here seems akin to a musical piece that begins with a soft melody that builds in intensity as it reaches a crescendo that at once draws the audience in and blows them away. We Are Still Here filmmaker Geoghegan told Fangoria that the timing of the film and the way that it builds gradually toward the climax was always planned and deliberate.
“The idea was to make a film that lulls you into a false sense of security by allowing you to spend time with these people, who are completely oblivious to any danger that might befall them. Then, when the terrible things start happening, they happen so rapid-fire and with such intensity that it kind of knocks you over.”
The setting for We Are Still Here was not always intended to take place in the winter, leaving the house and its occupants isolated from nearby civilization, but came about as the film went into pre-production. Initially, We Are Still Here was set to take place in the fall with the idea that the autumn atmosphere would build upon the sadness and melancholy felt by the mournful Sacchettis.
“It was not set in the snow; that was a concept Travis came up with. He thought that there had been so few genre films that are completely snowbound that doing that would make a statement. It also would make it that much more desolate for this couple, who are up there feeling very isolated. They’ve just moved into this old house, and the fact that there’s feet of snow around them in every direction just adds to the fact that there’s no place for them to go and no one for them to count on. It’s just them and the ghosts.”
The ghosts in We Are Still Here are unique in their appearance, possessing charred skin that cracks and sparks, but Geoghegan says that he took great care to limit the use of CGI in the film. Much of what is seen in We Are Still Here is composed of make-up and traditional effects, according to Mr. Geoghegan.
“One of the keys to the film for me was trying to make it appear as if there’s no CGI in it. I wanted everything to seem extremely practical, so all the acclaim goes to Eli, in that you can’t spot that many of the visual effects. The ghosts were victims of a fire, and have whited-out eyes and little cracks in their skin that hiss and pop and have a lava-like appearance. They have smoldering embers coming off their bodies, and there’s a faint heat signature on them that warps them slightly. But the shots are so quick that the digital effects Eli placed in the film blend seamlessly with Marcus’ practical effects, and they just look like a terrifying family of ghosts.”
Following a long list of positive feedback from critic reviews and film festival tours, We Are Still Here opened in theaters and on V.O.D. today.
[Featured image: Barbara Crampton courtesy of Dark Sky Films/We Are Still Here]