This house needs a family.

We Are Still Here uses the 1970’s ambiance to conjure up recollections of possession films of that time period. While the tone is right and the scares are gruesome, the back-story and build-up to terror has gaping holes related to consistency.

Paul, played by Andrew Sensenig, and Anne, played by horror veteran Barbara Crampton, are in dire need of new scenery after their teenage son dies unexpectedly in a car accident.  Thinking the fresh air of upstate New York will help, they move into a long uninhabited country estate. Before long, the small town begins to signal to Anne and Paul that the house has a seedy past, a past that may not be resolved. They invite their intuitive friends over and quickly realize that in addition to dealing with paralyzing grief they now must face malevolent ghosts out for blood.

Immediately, there is something about We Are Still Here that is vaguely reminiscent of The Shining. This similarity is beyond the wintry 1970’s setting. There is a sense of hopeless desolation and solitude about We Are Still Here that parallels the intangible withdrawal and sadness of the Stanley Kubrick adaptation.

With those conjured images, we were pretty hopeful about the cinematic experience for this indie horror. Though We Are Still Here did fall quite a distance short of our expectations there were enough successes to deem it a more successful horror than most blockbusters released this year.

When it comes to possession films as sub-genre of the horror film, I’m pretty skeptical of their success and believability in the realm of horror. Too often they are hokey and implausible, with a bunch of people running scared of moving house wares; this is of course after they ignored months of warning signs. We Are Still Here avoids these clichés by truncating the time in which the family lives in the house substantially. Unfortunately, in making a concerted effort to avoid common horror tropes of possession films, Ted Geoghegan sacrifices creating believable lore and cultivated terror.

The physical horror of We Are Still Here is apparent. The villainous creatures lurking in the cellar are a tangible representation of darkness: spooky charred bodies with piercing eyes. The deaths are vicious and completely capitalize on the film’s blood budget, viscerally spewing punctured flesh. But, without anything for the audience to connect to, they are all just nonsensical deaths that are ultimately of no consequence. At no point do you cringe or worry for the characters, because their development is completely absent.

Ultimately We Are Still Here is less “The Shining” and more a poor man’s The Amityville Horror. You feel for the family, but without a basic plot structure, it fails to impress.