3 out of 5
Directed by: Jesse Holland, Andy Mitton
Setting aside the embarrassing snark of my review, I’m still agreed that Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton’s 2010 horror film YellowBrickRoad was very much flawed, but interesting. There’s a good, central idea – the details of which aren’t very well fleshed out and are thus danced around – and then it hits a turning point where the filmmakers can’t decide the exact tone to strike, but you can still feel that idea pulsing at the center of things, hoping to be hammered into an effective throughline to a conclusion. Despite it not fulfilling that hope, the movie was still unique enough to make the next offering from the filmmakers – six years later, with We Go On – worth checking out. Even though it ends up having the same exact issues.
In We Go On, Miles (Clark Freeman) has a nice collection of phobias which make him perpetually afraid of death. This seems to be mostly centered around a fear of driving – shown to us via a clunkily edited opening dream sequence – but he still seems to lead a functional, if isolated life. Miles is a bit nervy, for sure, but he has a job and isn’t socially incompetent, allowing us to sort of ‘get’ him; we might not share his fears to his extremes, but he’s ‘normal’ enough to we can intuit how are day to day worries could theoretically flourish into Miles’. In a very plot-devicey move, though, Miles paranoia eventually encourages him to tack all of his money onto a reward to a notice he posts online and in print: show him proof of life after death. Yeah, okay, it’s a bit hokey in the same way that ‘Wizard of Oz is scary!’ was to YellowBrickRoad, but still: interesting. Miles’ mom, Charlotte (Annette O’Toole), notices the ad and recognizes her son’s desperation, and comes for a visit and to help Miles sift through the 1,000+ responses he gets. In another appreciable bit of writing and acting, Charlotte isn’t outright judgmental of this, nor is Miles foolish about it: he recognizes he’s going to have to sit through scams and junk; she talks a bit of reason about not fearing death but has had to live with her son’s phobias for long enough to accept them; and they’re both admittedly interested to see what they’ll find.
Narrowed down to three possible “real” entries and one mysterious voicemail, you can assume how the next chunk of film will play out, eventually leading to investigating the voicemail. It’s in this chunk that the film starts to run a little thin, as ‘proof of life after death’ loses its air of mystery to just become about showing Miles a ghost. And ghosts aren’t really as scary as the unknown. When the film does legitimately become creepy… it’s brief, as it’s quick to toss an explanation at you. Later, Holland and Mitton manage to cycle this back around into a different style of a movie, giving Miles some purpose beyond his ghost hunt… ever so briefly, again, before there’s a panicked conclusion tacked on to things.
The experience as compared to YBR was almost exactly the same: I never got bored with We Go On, and there were a lot of intriguing choices made throughout. The characters were stronger and more interesting here, and the sound design was as effective as YBR’s better moments without being as intrusive. But for these improvements, our filmmakers seemed to want to follow on the trend of more ’emotional’ horror like Babadook and the like, watering down the potential of the movie.
But whenever the ‘from the makers of We Go On’ film comes out, I’ll be there to see what their next good idea is, and whether or not they can – by my take – improve on their formula.