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September 03, 2021

We Need to do Something

we need.jpg

Sean King O'Grady - 2021
IFC Films

I am certain most readers here have seen the original version of The House on Haunted Hill. The house in question is a Frank Lloyd Wright design as seen in the exterior shots. Once Vincent Price and his would-be victims step inside, the film moves from the 1924 Ennis House to the interior of an 1890s Victorian mansion. A similar sleight-of-hand takes place in the initial set-up of We Need to do Something.

Most of the film takes place in a bathroom the size of a small Manhattan studio apartment. A middle-class family, father, mother, son and daughter, lock themselves in as temporary shelter from a storm, possibly a tornado. There is extremely loud thunder, rain, and power outages. The only door leads to the outside and is blocked by a fallen tree. In a fumbled attempt to assess what is going on outside, the father drops the only cell phone out of reach, outside the door. Tensions rise between the family members with their being trapped. Not only is there danger from the increasingly unhinged father, but there is also the suggestion that whatever is outside is even more dangerous.

When the film breaks from the travails of this dysfunctional family, it is with flashbacks of the daughter, Melissa, and her girlfriend, Amy. The two are linked by their mutual sense of being outsiders, united in an interest in occult rituals. There is a scene with the two in close-ups, Melissa with blood around her mouth. Melissa eventually believes that she bears responsibility for the disasters that takes place with her family. I am not familiar with Max Booth III's original story that served as the basis for the film (he also wrote the screenplay), but while it gives Melissa depth that the other characters lack, it also is arguably exploitive, as if the voyeuristic young man that Melissa and Amy chase away is a proxy for the male viewers.

There are some intentionally comic moments as well as gross-out laughs. The bumbling father successfully chases out a rattlesnake that has slithered into the bathroom. Celebrating his success, he guzzles down a bottle of mouth wash for its alcohol content.

The suggested horror of unexplained sounds from unseen sources is more effective than the creature feature horror near the end. While those gory moments are the kind of stuff that is beloved primarily by younger horror fans, it comes across as incongruous to a film that effectively works on the principle of the classic Val Lewton produced horror movies of the 1940s, where what scary existed in the imagination of the audience.

We Need to do Something is available in limited theatrical release and streaming formats.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at September 3, 2021 05:53 AM