There are no real monsters in Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton’s contemplative, dreamy, Horror film, “We Go On” to fear or fight, there are no final girls to cheer on, no climatic twists or sequel setups. There is some blood, and there are some quiet scares, but “We Go On” has actually offended some Horror “comment section purists” in that the elements of supernatural terror are secondary to the film’s core, which is actually a quiet and effective drama about people learning to live on after death. If the film was about cancer, or AIDS, it would be hailed as “a powerful indie ensemble” with the requisite tear jerking and accolades. But “We Go On” isn’t about cancer, or AIDS, It’s about ghosts, which makes it a unique, but odd, addition to Shudder’s growing library of overlooked genre gems.
More specifically, “We Go On” tells the story of Miles Grissom (Clark Freeman). Miles, while blandly handsome and succesful in a rudderless, early middle-aged way, is actually a mess: he’s neurotic, he has insomnia, he’s suffering from a laundry list of various phobias, including a crippling fear of death. He went to film school…but works from home editing infomercials, he’s well off…but never does anything…..and he’s miserable. One day, Miles is so sick of living in fear that he takes out a classified ad, pleading for someone, anyone, to prove to him the existence of life after death, offering $30,000 to the “winner”. He thinks this will let him know, one way or the other, if we “go on”. His mother, alarmed after seeing the ad in the paper, comes to his apartment to help him vet the thousands of crackpot responses he’s received in response to his public plea to prove an afterlife and cure his phobias.
Miles finds few entries that seem legitimate: there’s a paranormal psychologist, a Mexican medium, a reclusive billionaire … and, oh yeah, a weird guy named Nelson. And it’s from here that “We Go On” pulls ahead of the pack: the film could have easily ventured into any number of terrible and obvious routes: from slapstick horror comedy detective story to bog-standard, long mouth ghost jump-scares, but instead it eases into the story with complete sincerity, grounded in the realistic and natural performances delivered by Clark Freeman, Annette O’Toole as Miles’ no-nonsense mother, genre legend John Glover in a great turn as the Paranormal psychologist, and the effortlessly greasy Jay Dunn as Nelson, who really CAN see ghosts, DUDE, but is never played for laughs. There is nothing tongue in cheek about the mission Miles’ embarks on, and while there are a few scares and some clever playing with genre conventions, “We Go On” pushes you to view a “ghost story” through a different lens, that the journey Miles’ takes isn’t supernatural at all, but an entirely natural part of dealing with life and death that we all go through.
Writer/Directors Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton bathe the film in natural light (in fact, very little of the movie happens in the dark, one of many subtle but unique twists to the genre’s conventions), and eschew drowning us in industrial strength sound design for letting the silence of an empty room or lonely highway raise our anxieties. “We Go On” looks much better than the microscopic budget would have you believe, the eventual ghosts, and the film’s one scene of gore, are handled with a cool detachment and a deft technical skill that only adds to their lingering impact. In fact, the film’s big reveal happens early, kicking off the film’s frantic 3rd act where most films had already ended on a cliched jump cut.
But, by presenting their story as a completely serious character study, the filmmakers pull off the films most special effect of all: making you care for these weird, lonely, sometimes dead people for the entirety of the films brisk, but un-rushed, 80-ish minute run-time. Even the ending is ultimately upbeat, but realistic. Nobody wins, nobody loses, and just like in real life, it just goes on and so do we.
“We Go On” is available to stream on SHUDDER. The trailer to this one is, frankly, a bit misleading: but trust us here…This film is worth a watch when you need a break from body horror, Italian gore or splatter porn for your 31 Days Of Horror marathon.