Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here. Happy Birthday to AICN HORROR which celebrates its sixth year on Ain’t It Cool News in October! And what a fantastic year in horror it was! Always hoping to pass on new and exciting films for all of you ravenous readers, I have once again compiled a list counting down my favorite horror film released since last October 1, 2014 and covered in my weekly AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column.
As far as how I compiled this list? Well, I simply looked over my AICN HORROR columns over the last year since October 1st, 2014 (which happens to be the birthday of this little column six years ago!) and worked and reworked a list throughout the year until I had 31. No real method to my special brand of madness; just my own personal favorites. The only rule qualifying the film for this countdown is that it had to be released to the masses (via theaters, digital download, On Demand, or DVD/BluRay) within the range of October 1, 2014 and October 1, 2015. Anything before or after that span of time doesn’t count in this haunted dojo. I’ll be counting down every day until Halloween to my favorite horror film of the year. I’ll also provide a second film suggestion at the end of each post that is worth noting or just missed making the list for those who can’t get enough horror.
So let’s get to it! Chime in after the article and let me know what you think of the pick, it’s placing on the list, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, and most importantly, let me know your own personal faves from the last year in horror…let’s go!
#30 WE ARE STILL HERE
Available on iTunes here!
WE ARE STILL HERE (2015)Directed by Ted Geoghegan
Written by Ted Geoghegan
Starring Barbara Crampton, Andrew Sensenig, Lisa Marie, Larry Fessenden, Monte Markham, Susan Gibney, Michael Patrick Nicholson, Kelsea Dakota, Guy Gane, Elissa Dowling, Zorah Burress, Marvin Patterson, Connie Neer
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
WE ARE STILL HERE is the type of film they just don’t make anymore, and that’s a shame because it’s the type of film that I love. It’s a lived in film--one that feels like the world in which the film exists is well thought out and fully realized, so you don’t so much as watch the film as you experience it, as writer/director Ted Geoghegan patiently immerses you in this house and this horrifying situation to make a film that utterly transfixing.
Having just lost their son to a car crash, devastated parents Paul and Anne Sacchetti (Andrew Sensing and RE-ANIMATOR’s Barbara Crampton) move into an old home in a New England town to start over. But upon entering the home, Anne almost immediately feels a presence and, being overcome with desperation, she believes it is her son reaching out from beyond the grave to communicate to her. Anne invites her friends Jacob and May Lewis (writer/director/actor/all around great dude Larry Fessenden and Tim Burton’s ex Lisa Marie), who are sensitive to the paranormal, to give the house a reading. But what none of them understand is that the house has a long and horrific history, and the Sacchetti family is just the latest in what seems to be many families who move into the home and never leave.
The most prevalent aspect of this film is the pacing. While this might be a film that infuriates the ADHD masses, I found the long shots of the exteriors of the household interspersed with close up shots of the seemingly banal details of the house to set a mood that you can almost touch. One scene in particular focuses on the tendril-like trees with the bare limbs free of leaves due to the winter weather with the house in the background, then cuts to a close-up of a rusty hook on the side of the house. Little moments like this may seem throwaway, but they are crucial in ratcheting up the tension. Geoghegan channels his inner Kubrick here by patiently letting the scene envelop the viewer and pull them in to dangerous places. The long shots of the car driving at the reader down the snowy roads as well as the 80s style clothing reminded me so much of THE SHINING; though the story and content was vastly different, the tone is definitely the same type of creeping unease that permeates that classic film.
Another admirable aspect of the film is that this really feels like the tip of the iceberg in terms of the story involved. This film focuses on two different families’ plights, but there’s a greater evil at play here as you’re not really sure whether the recounting of the tragedies of the town are accurate or some elaborate ruse to cover up something more sinister. It’s this kind of ambiguity that adds to that sense of unease, as if the blacked-out spaces we don’t know make things all the more dangerous. The things we do see are horrifying. Geoghegan teases us with some clever play with shadows and forms in the background, but it’s the burning touch of the white-eyed ghosts with charred black skin that really up the horror. These original-looking specters are horrifying and reminiscent of the dark pirates from John Carpenter’s THE FOG in the way they look and move.
There are a few blips in the delivery of information that feel a bit info-dumpy, as when a neighboring couple stop by to educate the Sacchettis about the history of the house and again when the couple appear later in the film in a restaurant. Still, this exposition is necessary in filling in some of the gaps in the story. For the most part, WE ARE STILL HERE is proof positive that Geoghegan has not only done his homework on what causes effective scares, but is fully capable of delivering retro frights while making them feel fresh and new. All four of the main leads (Crampton, Sensing, Fessenden, and Marie) deliver rock solid and splendidly believable performances, with Crampton once again proving that her best acting years are ahead of her and not behind her in FROM BEYOND and RE-ANIMATOR. More horror films should take note of the patience used in this film. The need for a jump scare every two minutes is an insult and often leaves me feeling hollow upon leaving the theater. It’s almost impossible to leave this film unsatisfied as it is chock full of scares, thrills, and absolute horror. Highly recommended.
Worth noting: MEET ME THERE!
#31 – AN AMERICAN TERROR
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 13 years & AICN HORROR for 6. Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.
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