Ted Geoghegan’s We Are Still Here (2015) is an aptly gruesome tribute to the halcyon days of 1980s splatter movies and the cosmic horror mythos of H.P. Lovecraft. It specifically channels and mimics the visual palette and tones of Lucio Fulci, the director who earned his stripes in the Italian genre filmmaking boom of the 1960s and 1970s, making all sorts of pictures, before establishing a talent for extremely violent imagery. For his efforts, he became known as the ‘Godfather of Gore’.
Heavily inspired by the surrealist movement, especially Antonin Artaud’s concept ‘The Theatre of Cruelty’, Fulci was gleefully full-throttle in the depiction of mutilation and savagery. His very best work is marked by an abandonment of narrative logic, in favour of atmospherics and nightmarish weirdness. The Italian was an erratic talent, most certainly, but when he struck gold – as with the superlative The Beyond (1981) – he arguably made one of the most delirious and terrifying horror movies ever made.
The Sacchettis (Barbara Crampton and Andrew Sensenig) are getting over the death of their teenaged son. Their new home out in the sticks is revealed to be a former mortuary – that explains the knock-down price, then! – and was once the scene of a family massacre. Since that bloody day, many waning moons ago, locals stay well clear of the creepy old house. Poor Anne, the bereaved mother, is stuck in the grieving process and believes her boy is making contact from beyond the grave, so they bring in a psychic friend (Lisa Marie) and her stoner husband, Jacob (Larry Fessenden, channelling Jack Nicholson in The Shining, 1980). If the build-up is deliberately slow-paced, the third act makes up for it with a gloriously gross, unrestrained bloodbath of accomplished verve. When the blood starts to fly: it really starts to fly. As arterial spray and blood explosions redecorate the walls of the house, Geoghegan’s big screen love letter to the joys of the Italian splatter era becomes a thoroughly charming affair.
We Are Still Here might be dismissed as yet another exercise in retro pastiche of the grindhouse era, trading on cheap nostalgia, but on closer inspection, the creative coming together of Fulci and Lovecraft actually forms a more rewarding and meaningful union than it ever did in the Gates of Hell trilogy. On this note, then, Geoghegan’s film is a conceptual triumph. The creepy compositions, wintry soft-focus photography, bursts of blood-and-guts and dreamlike logic are markedly Fulci-flavoured, whereas, the film’s mythology, weirdo townsfolk and the ancient evil residing within the house are thoroughly indebted to Lovecraft. An eldritch tale of welcome vintage laced with surrealism, not least a wonderfully perplexing final shot and line of dialogue, We Are Still Here is a smart distillation of cinematic and literary influences.
Martyn Conterio | @Cinemartyn