Ghost stories run a wide gamut in the spectrum of horror films. Otherworldly spirits can range from malicious entities hell-bent on harming the living (The Amityville Horror, the Paranormal Activity franchise), spectral deviants drawing similar souls into their torment (The Shining, Poltergeist ), vengeful souls wronged in life (best evidenced in J-Horror films like Ju-On and Ringu ), and even as helpful avatars of those who have crossed over before us in (admittedly not purely horror) films like Ghost, Always, and The Frighteners. Quite obviously, the exploration of the realm that may or may not exist beyond death provides a wide range of approaches for a filmmaker to take…but what say a filmmaker boldly tries to absorb elements of several of these aspects, weaving them together to create something unique from the crowd?
That’s a pretty good description of what I got out of We Go On, the second feature effort from writers/directors Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton.
Miles Grissom has some serious, deep-rooted issues. His father dying when he was young made quite the impression upon him, and thus he’s lived his life on the fringe of actual living, too afraid of basically everything to really have what would be called a life. Desperate for hope, he offers thirty thousand dollars to anyone who can offer him incontrovertible proof that there is an afterlife. His mother, loving and devoted though a mite overprotective, sees this as a fool’s errand, a waste of money, but stands by her son both to hopefully end his years of torment, and to tag along to make sure he’s not ripped off.
After receiving many responses to his ad, he and his mother narrow the submissions down to three that seem the most legit: a scientist who says he can use a procedure he developed to offer evidence of life after death, a self-proclaimed medium who says she can tell him the lives he’s lived before, and a wealthy explorer who’s found an artifact that he claims holds the secret to the afterlife. Visiting each, they see what the three have to offer, and still remain unsatisfied…at least until Miles remembers one additional submission call he received — a call that shouldn’t exist, because he didn’t put his phone number on the ad…
…what follows may answer Mile’s questions, but he just might find that some things might be better left to mystery.
This one starts out slow, people, but it’s a purposeful slow. We get to know Miles a goodly bit, sharing his nightmares and his paranoia and irrational terror — of course, we don’t learn everything; some pieces of his persona are left for later reveals, and the well-written script handles this well. The pace quickens a little as he and his mother begin their investigation, but things don’t really ramp up until about halfway into the film.
This, to me at least, was a good thing — documenting his disappointments was important to the believability of the film, the atmosphere draws you in to where there’s a high level of reality in the story — until things go straight to hell. Thematically, the look of the film varies between the different methods used by the “experts” as they seek to prove the afterlife to Miles; from spooky, Insidious-type visuals to a possession-flick vibe to even a touch of Hellraiser, this movie borrows some feels from several types of ghost movies before delving into it’s own horrific look at both the afterlife and our own perceptions of living.
Along with the tight scripting and well-done cinematographic work, this film boasts some of the best performances I’ve seen lately. Clark Freeman as Miles gives us a man clearly frightened, but not over the top — he shows the obvious coping mechanisms of a grown man who’s been afraid since childhood without becoming a cartoon. John Glover and Giovanna Zacharias, as two of the people who try to convince Miles of the hereafter, make the most of their short screen times, each bringing a different but potent emotional aspect to the film from their character’s own beliefs and views of the afterlife. Jay Dunn lends a uniqueness to the character of Nelson, but I’ll have to let you find out what his secrets are on your own. Finally, Annette O’Toole as Miles’ mother absolutely steals the show — her portrayal was the highlight of the flick for me, providing us with both a believable mama bear protecting her cub regardless of the consequences and a vulnerable human being, her own failings at times breaking her down.
There’s not a lot of bloody scares, but there is the requisite amount of jump scares and building suspense, as is a consequence of borrowing from differing, established styles — however, this serves to show the variances in “ghostly” perception, and highlights this film’s own look by providing contrast. The surreal tone set by the film provides a tense and unpredictable environment — one that many contemporary movies of this nature lack in their all-too-often formulaic presentations.
The slow start may put some folks off, and the general feel of the film may not be a lot of horror fans’ cup of tea, but if you’re the type that enjoys a thinking person’s horror flick, you should definitely check this one out — I’m certainly glad that I did.
That’s my two-tenths of a dime.
WE GO ON is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, VOD, and the Shudder Network.