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Hidden Horrors of Peacock: The Haunting Brutality of We Are Still Here - Stream it Now
This month, we're taking a look at writer/director Ted Geoghegan's powerful feature debut.
Welcome to Hidden Horrors of Peacock, a monthly column spotlighting off-the-beaten-path scary movies available to watch right now on NBCUniversal's streaming service. From cult classics to forgotten sequels to indie gems you've maybe never heard of, we've got you covered.
This month, we're taking a look at one of the best horror films of the 2010s: We Are Still Here.
When you think of the best horror movies of the last decade, you probably think mostly about major studio releases that got lots of attention through things like TV spots, awards shows, and even internet memes. The films of Jordan Peele, Ari Aster, and Robert Eggers come to mind, as do revivals of the Scream and Halloween franchises. All of those films are deserving, of course, and general audiences didn't just gobble them up because studios spent a lot time promoting them. There's a reason we're still talking about them, but they're certainly not the only game in town.
As the 2010s became the 2020s, and we as entertainment journalists and fans started thinking about the best horror films of the past decade, all the films just mentioned were brought up, of course. But so were a number of smaller releases that cast their own kind of handmade spell over the horror scene. Indie horror is a passion for many horror fans, but if you're someone who heads to the multiplex or the top of the streaming charts for your scary movies, you may have missed some of these lower-budget but deeply creative and effective pieces of storytelling. So, let's say you weren't necessarily keeping track of the best indie horror releases of the 2010s, where do you start?
There are a lot of answers, but one of the most essential is inarguably Ted Geoghegan's We Are Still Here. The film is currently streaming on Peacock, which makes it a perfect candidate for this column. And since Geoghegan's about to drop his third feature as director, Brooklyn 45, it feels like a perfect time to talk about this chilling, beautifully dark piece of terror.
What Drives We Are Still Here?
The basic hook of the story is one you've seen before, probably dozens of times: A couple nursing issues of their own move into an old house that contains restless, possibly dangerous forces. This time around the couple is Paul (Andrew Sensenig), and Anne (Barbara Crampton), and the destination is a home in rural New England, surrounded by snowy land, that's more than a century old. Paul and Anne have moved in an effort to try to mourn from a distance the death of their son in a car accident, but almost immediately, Anne starts to sense that their son's energy has somehow migrated with them out into the country. She can feel a presence in the house, and while Paul tries to dismiss it, he also can't help but notice the smoky smell and interminable heat coming from the home's cellar.
Finally, to get some answers and even just a little company, Anne invites two séance-hip friends (Larry Fessenden and Lisa Marie) to the house to spend some time there, look for the couple's departed son in the aura of the home, and maybe get to the bottom of a secret or two. What they find is terrifying, very old, and much more complex than a straightforward haunting.
Again, you probably know some version of this story, particularly since Geoghegan was inspired by films like The House by the Cemetery in the first place. The trick is, of course, in the execution of these familiar themes and motifs. As you may have guessed, the intense heat and smoky smell of the cellar are part of the film's supernatural roots, which then rise up in the form of fire-themed creatures that are both instantly memorable and capable of some very, very inventive kills. When it comes to the horror goods, Geoghegan's not only done his homework as a genre fan, but figured out how to turn those years of study into gut-churning, extremely effective practice.
Aside from the over horror elements, which only get more intense as the film wears on and the mythology surrounding the phenomena expands, the film plays (much like Brooklyn 45, which you should definitely check out on Shudder beginning June 9) like an intimate, emotion-packed character drama. It's the story of how grief sends ripples through your life, touching everyone and everything, and to that end it requires some mammoth performances. Crampton does what's arguably the best work of her career in this film, Fessenden proves why he's a household name among indie horror fans, while Lisa Marie and Sensenig are also putting in excellent performances. It's a wonderful ensemble piece that's built on the various expressions of dread, heartbreak, and terror etched on the faces of its leads, and Geoghegan balances the human and the supernatural with remarkable ease.
So, if you're looking for a great indie horror that you may have missed the first time around, don't miss We Are Still Here. It's streaming on Peacock now!