Stars: Clark Freeman, Annette O’ Toole, John Glover, David Bickford, Justin Carpenter, Jay Dunn, Edwin Garcia II, Laura Heisler, Terry Kaye, Logan Kishi, Peter Lucas | Written and Directed by Jesse Holland, Andy Mitton
Stricken by a paralysing fear of death and uncertainty about what lies beyond, sad-sack Miles (Clark Freeman) places an advert in the newspaper offering a $30,000 reward for anyone who can conclusively prove to him that there’s an afterlife. After receiving and dismissing hundreds of responses, Miles chooses three to follow up on. With his firebrand mother Charlotte (Annette O’Toole) as his sidekick, the duo set off to try and answer the big question once and for all.
Given the basic classified ad set-up, the mumblecore approach, vague ruminations on the meaning of it all and a central conflict between believers and sceptics, I was reminded strongly of Safety Not Guaranteed, though We Go On adds horror elements to its otherwise fairly whimsical narrative. The first responder Miles and Charlotte visit is a professor (John Glover) who attempts to recreate a terrifying moment from Miles’ past in order to prompt a ghostly encounter and in this relatively brief section, the film gets some of the more typical horror tropes and jump scares out of the way early.
What the film is perhaps more interested in is the dynamic between mother and adult son, which isn’t something I can recall being played out too frequently off the top of my head. Charlotte fundamentally disagrees with Miles’ search for the afterlife but is also resolute in her love for Miles and desire to protect him both from opportunistic strangers and his mental health issues which his hunt seems to be keeping somewhat at bay. Both actors work well with each other and portray a believable and endearing relationship.
The last third of the film (approaching slightly spoilery territory here folks) takes a slight detour via a twist that whilst not unforeseeable is played really well for maximum creepiness. Miles does start seeing evidence of some form of afterlife – though whether or not it’s all in his head not is more ambiguous. The hauntings he receives tread a very fine line between being really quite unsettling and actually a little bit too silly but what is more unnerving than your average BOO! A GHOST! jump scare is the near banality of the visions and the realisation that Miles might be in way over his head in a very permanent way. The final scenes of the film also take slightly unexpected directions and that too is very welcome.
All in all, I was pleasantly surprised by We Go On. It’s certainly far from flawless (the title isn’t that great for starters) and whilst you wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this is only directing and writing duo Andy Mitton and Jesse Holland’s third feature, it’s also fairly impressively put together despite that fact. Budgetary constraints are evident at times, but what’s on screen seems rarely compromised by these. I liked that it didn’t really sit comfortably into one genre or another, wasn’t afraid to follow its own instincts and ideas and often chose the path less travelled. If the idea of a philosophical film with horror inflections and a nice central study of a family relationship against a backdrop of mental health issues sounds appealing then look no further.
We Go On is available exclusively on Shudder now.