I saw Yellowbrickroad as part of the Bloody Disgusting Selects partnership with AMC Theaters (or whatever it was). I mention it because directors Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton also wrote and directed We Go On, showing at this year’s Fantasia (International Film Fest). The former film was competently made but failed to produce the effects that it aimed to produce. (for me at least) Namely – fear. It had some decent moments of the stuff and some jarring weirdness, but never registered more than a weak blip on my Feardar (it’s like a radar, but for fear™). So, I didn’t have super high expectations for We Go On, but the premise was interesting and, like I said, the directors have proven themselves competent. So, what the hell? Why not check it out? Well, that’s exactly what I did. Now, I’m sharing with you like some kind of altruistic saint. (as opposed to those self-serving saints i guess)
Miles is a bundle of nerves. He’s afraid of quite a few things. Most prominently, he’s afraid of driving. His loss-of-control car nightmares are intense and leave him sweaty and terrified. His fears are intruding on his life so much that he takes out an ad (both online and in print) offering $30, 000 to anyone who can prove that “we go on” (TITLE!) after we die. He’ll accept ghosts / past lives / Heaven / God / whatever. He just wants to be convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt. He figures proof of life after death may quell his constant fear of death. His mom gets wind of the ad and inserts herself into the situation. She helps vet the responses and she tags along with Miles when he goes to talk to people who claim to have proof. He gets mostly cranks and shysters but there are a few that seem like promising leads. He soon gets more (much more) than he bargained for by poking his nose into the paranormal.
Once again, Holland and Mitton demonstrate their competence as filmmakers. Shots are motivated and/or interesting and hardly ever look like something out of a made-for-basic-cable movie. (ok, there was only one shot that reminded me of ham-fisted cable fare) And there are certainly more fearful moments in We Go On than there were in Yellowbrickroad. Which, is a good thing (obviously). Unfortunately, the film’s greatest strengths are all but abandoned halfway through the story. Where We Go On succeeds is in its focus on Miles and his desperation for answers. Any answers. He is almost constantly terrified of the mundane things that constitute modern living. The people he meets through his ad – the best candidates for exposing the supernatural – are interesting and each one provides an opportunity for the viewer to playfully guess at whether they’re legit or not. Once Miles does get his answer (is that a spoiler? if so, it’s super minor) the film falls into hackneyed melodrama and cheap soundtrack stings. That’s not to say the story isn’t clever or that there aren’t any real scares after that point. In fact, the story is a pretty clever one. And there are some great shots of out-of-focus phantoms in the background that send chills up the spine. Mile’s post “answer” freakout is pretty intense and believable as well. I just wish the directors would have eschewed cheesy ghosts in ghoulish makeup jumping up and charging the camera or screaming on the bus. These tropes come off as amateurish and do more to remove the viewer from the otherwise interesting story.
The Final Cut: We Go On starts off strong but employs too many tired tropes and too much melodrama to really grab viewers, despite an interesting premise and a clever perspective on the timeworn haunting story.