If The Diabolical was a haunted house film done wrong, then We Are Still Here is a haunted house film done right. This is a well-crafted, old-school ghost story with all of the classic elements in place: an isolated house, bumps in the night, an age-old backstory, and a group of likable protagonists. Director Ted Geoghegan assembles all of these elements skillfully. Though he doesn’t fully stick the landing, We Are Still Here manages to be a scary and welcome addition to the haunted house sub-genre (with some tongue-in-cheek moments thrown in for good measure).
Anne and Paul Sacchetti (Barbara Crampton and Andrew Sensenig) move to a new house with hopes of dealing with the death of their son, Bobby. However, Anne senses something in the house she feels may be Bobby’s spirit. After some strange happenings, she asks their friends, psychic Mary (Lisa Marie) and her husband, hippie Jacob (Larry Fessenden), to help them figure out what’s going on. But none of them are prepared for what they discover.
For the most part, the acting is solid. Crampton makes for a strong emotional center. She brings a mixture of fragility and strength to her portrayal, which endears Anne to us.
Andrew Sensenig is equally good as her husband. It’s always great to see a film centered around older characters. Especially a horror movie, a genre normally tailored to younger audiences. Some comic relief is present, courtesy of Larry Fessenden’s aging stoner. The least successful member of the cast is Lisa Marie, who goes a little too over-the-top in her attempts to be “out there”.
Geoghegan slowly builds up a strong atmosphere and sense of dread. The isolated, snowbound setting recalls that of The Shining, a major influence on this film. Oddball neighbors and townsfolk (a staple of the genre) add a little eccentricity to the picture. Overall, Geoghegan handles himself capably. Things do get a little too silly in the final act, where the balance between straight horror and tongue-in-cheek starts to lean a little more toward the latter. Thanks to the great build-up and wonderful cast, though, We Are Still Here gets a pass from me.
A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story
Imagine you lead a relatively normal life. You go to school during the day, and you spends your nights at home with a loving family. Nothing is out of the ordinary. One day, you’re surfing the web and come across a video entitled “The World’s Ugliest Woman.” You click on it only to discover the subject of the video is none other than yourself. Imagine how soul-crushing an experience like that must be. Well, that’s exactly what happened to Lizzie Velasquez.
A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story is a powerful and intimate peak into her life, and how it was affected by this discovery. Instead of letting it drag her down, she used it as fuel for her life’s work: becoming an anti-bullying advocate. She even forgave the person who posted that video. She is a brave and courageous person, and you will want to be just as brave and courageous as her as soon as you finish watching this wonderful tribute to her and her life’s work.
Overall, this is an effective documentary. It puts forth a positive and empowering message about the effects of bullying and what can be done to stop it. There are some raw emotional moments, such as when she receives hurtful tweets preceding one of her motivational speeches. Occasionally, the film becomes too manipulative, employing overly emotional music in order to get you to feel for Lizzie. She is a very compelling figure, and we don’t need the added mawkishness to inspire us to root for her. Aside from that minor note, this is a great documentary that I highly recommend seeking out.
Director Rodney Ascher (Room 237) brings his unique style of documentary filmmaking to this chronicle of eight people suffering from sleep paralysis. Mixing talking heads with recreations of what these people are describing, The Nightmare becomes just as much of a horror film as it is a documentary. It’s a great idea on paper, but its execution is less successful.
The main problem is that some of the segments are far more engaging than others. After a while, it starts to feel like you’re hearing the same incidents described over and over again. True, there are variations here and there, but sometimes it becomes very difficult to differentiate between the subjects. It also feels much longer than it is.
Considering that it runs a mere 91 minutes, this is not a good sign (in its defense, it may be too slow-paced for the midnight slots it was assigned at SXSW). I would recommend seeking this out if you suffer from sleep paralysis, as you will undoubtedly sympathize with what’s on display. If you’re simply interested in the subject of sleep paralysis, I’d suggest reading the Wikipedia article. It’s a lot shorter.
Mark Wanner is an avid film fanatic based out of Austin, TX. When he’s not watching movies, he fills his time with pizza and breakfast tacos. Read part one of Mark’s SXSW Film Festival Wrap Up, featuring reviews of The Diabolical, The Invitation & The Overnight here.