FrightFest 2015 reaction: We Are Still Here

Bored with shiny horror movies featuring perfect-looking, plastic-souled teens you care for not one jot? Then this throwback haunted house pic is for you. Not only does it feature middle-aged protagonists, genuine suspense and a creepy mythology, it boasts some of the best ghosts since The Devil's Backbone.

Traumatised by the death of their teenage son, Anne and Paul Sacchetti (Barbara Crampton, Andrew Sensenig) move to an isolated New England house, where they immediately feel a 'presence'. Is it the spirit of their beloved Bobby, as Anne believes? Or does it have something to do with the neighbours' story about the house's original occupants and the horrific fate that befell them?

With its faded palette, peeling production design and wintry landscapes, We Are Still Here effectively conjures atmosphere, maintaining a chilled air of disquietude even as the arrival of hippie friends Jacob and May (Larry Fessenden, Lisa Marie) allows for a touch of camp to enter the proceedings.

He's a stoner, she's a psychic, and their slightly inflated performances possess a fun, knowing quality – rightly so given debut director Ted Geoghegan is well acquainted with the 'satanic panic' and 'old dark house' pictures of the '70s. Also a product of that era are the ghosts, which might have lurched from John Carpenter's The Fog. Like the film itself, they occupy a space between the deliberately hokey and the really rather scary.

Then, just as you're thinking We Are Still Here is akin to Ti West's The House Of The Devil and The Innkeepers in its old-school, modulated menace, it takes a left-turn into balls-out bloodletting. Arteries spray, torsos spill, heads pop.

It might have unbalanced the movie were it not an extension of the carefully seeded fun – far from being cruel and torture porn-y, this is Geoghegan now tapping the outré horrors of the '80s. He splashes in plasma and viscera like a kid in a puddle, and his joy is infectious.

Those who can spot a Fulci reference will likely embrace this creepy, bloody haunted house movie more than mainstream viewers. But if you like your horror, it's a treat.

Editor-at-Large, Total Film

Jamie Graham is the Editor-at-Large of Total Film magazine. You'll likely find them around these parts reviewing the biggest films on the planet and speaking to some of the biggest stars in the business – that's just what Jamie does. Jamie has also written for outlets like SFX and the Sunday Times Culture, and appeared on podcasts exploring the wondrous worlds of occult and horror.