CONTAINS SOME VERY MINOR SPOILERS
There are several ways to make a tribute movie to the prized horrors you grew up with and now wish to pay homage to. Slavish imitation and mimicry and fanboy injokes are all very well, and can be good fun, but it's much harder - and much more rewarding to watch - to go for the mood, the atmosphere, and to pull off the even more difficult feat of nodding to the occasional silliness of the original sources without ever being deliberately silly itself. One of my very favourite films on show in this year's FrightFest, We Are Still Here manages that trick with great style and emerges as a glorious love letter to wonky Eurohorror of the 70s and 80s (specifically Lucio Fulci), and achieved that delicious (and all too rare) feat of sending me mentally back in time to the old Scala Cinema for afternoons of The House By The Cemetery and The Beyond.
Following the death of their grown-up son, middle-aged couple Paul and Anne Sacchetti (Andrew Sensenig, Barbara Crampton) relocate to a wintry small town to start afresh. But wouldn't you know: the house used to be the property of mad mortician Dagmar, and no-one's told them about the curse, the sacrifice, the ghosts, the spooky cellar. It takes their best friends, stoner Jacob and medium May (Larry Fessenden, Lisa Marie) to set the spirits loose....
At least naming the couple Sachetti after veteran Italian genre screenwriter Dardano is a higher (and less distracting) calibre of hat-tipping than obvious drop-ins for the likes of Sheriff Romero and Professor Argento, though "Joe The Electrician" is at most a first cousin of The Beyond's "Joe The Plumber". Much of the joy of the film is how it captures the look and feel of Fulci's horrors: the film has a pleasing 70s aura to it with period cars and a welcome absence of Google and cellphones, as well as shots that seem deliberately crafted after The Beyond. And it's nice to have the occasional horror film that's deliberately skewed to older, more mature characters rather than half-dressed teenagers jiggling about the place.
I loved We Are Still Here: as pin-sharp a replica of style and mood as Ti West's House Of The Devil was of old American TV-movie chillers. But it scores as a damn scary horror movie in its own right as well as a love letter to Lucio. There's a decent amount of gore, it looks great, and the spectres themselves are superbly effective silhouette figures (modelled after the ghosts in John Carpenter's The Fog) and their appearances well timed for maximum jump value. It's also very creepy, with that delightful can't-look-must-look feeling kicking in every time someone goes stumbling around in the basement. Sure there are bits that don't appear to make sense, but a Lucio Fulci homage that makes sense makes about as much sense as a Lucio Fulci movie anyway! Terrific in pretty much every department, and I want to see it again.