Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Fantasia ’16: We Go On

Hamlet told Horatio “there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy,” but that’s not good enough for Miles Grissom. He wants proof of something after death, so he is offering thirty thousand American Dollars to anyone who can conclusively demonstrate the existence of ghosts, angels or what-have-you. You can forget about angels right off the bat, but ghosts are a different story. After all, there are good reasons why Jesse Holland & Andy Mitton’s We Go On (trailer here) is screening during the 2016 Fantasia International Film Festival.

Ever since his father died in a car crash, Grissom has been petrified by cars, plagued by medium level agoraphobia, and paralyzed by the very idea of death. That was about three decades ago. In a desperate attempt to reassert control over his life, Grissom pledges his inheritance to anyone who can prove there is something after. Naturally, he is inundated with responses, but his no-nonsense mother Charlotte helps him whittle them down to three main contenders (and maybe a few dark horses).

The first session with Dr. Ellison, an academic paranormal researcher starts promisingly, but ends disappointingly. The pattern will repeat with the other main contenders, but one of the dark horses just might be the real deal. In which case, Grissom could be in for a hard careful-what-you-wish-for lesson.

Indeed, Holland & Mitton’s narrative radically changes course midway through, but it always makes sense given the context. It is definitely creepy, but it is also its own film. We are certainly not watching the same basic chiller re-purposed for yet another cast. However, it is safe to say Annette O’Toole is their ace in the hole, because she is terrific as the tart-tounged Charlotte.  In contrast, Clark Freeman’s turn as Grissom truly inspires mixed reactions. At times, he seems appropriately nebbish, but he is also rather dull. The same could never be said of John Glover, who is flamboyantly sleazy as ever playing Dr. Ellison. Although her work as Josephina the medium is considerably less showy, Giovanna Zacarias is still effectively squirrely, in a quiet, tightly wound sort of way.

WGO springs a few sly surprises along the way, but the clever details are what really make the film. Holland & Mitton do not reinvent the genre wheel, but they nicely balance grounded humor with supernatural horror. Recommended for horror fans who appreciate character and concepts, We Go On screens again tomorrow (7/28), as part of this year’s Fantasia in Montreal.