We Go On. 2017. Directed & Written by Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton.
Starring Clark Freeman, Annette O’Toole, John Glover, Giovanna Zacarias, Laura Heisler, & Jay Dunn.
Not Rated. 89 minutes.
There are so many ghost stories out there, from literature to film, that it’s hard to come up with something original. Same can be said about all stories, everything’s just a retelling, a reinvention of an ages old archetype or structure. Yet there are always writers and directors out there coming up with new ways to show us a glimpse of supernatural horror, ways that inspire us, maybe revolt us depending on the circumstances; in this case, it takes us into the concept of life after death and how we deal with the death of others, our own impending death someday, somehow, somewhere we don’t know.
Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton deliver We Go On for those who love ghost stories and want a different perspective. They tell the story of Miles (Clark Freeman), a man shattered by the death of his father in a car accident, forever plagued by the fear of death, worrying it’s a big, black void from which there’s no coming back, making life feel nearly claustrophobic. When he places an ad with a reward of $30,000 for any concrete proof that “we go on,” Miles gets far more than he bargained for after a man Nelson (Jay Dunn) contacts him, saying he can show him a ghost.
The film takes up the Gothic mantle, set in an environment full of urban decay, and it retains that classic feeling of the ghost story while trudging through very modern territory. We Go On takes Miles and the audience on a journey through the existential crisis of fearing death, examining trauma, death, as well as how we manage to overcome them both. That is, IF we’re able.
The fear of uncertainty is a powerful thing. This often extends to our ideas of the afterlife. For those of us who aren’t religious, there can come with this a sense of not knowing what will happen when we die. Not that the religious KNOW, but they BELIEVE, and this makes all the difference. Myself, I don’t fear death, it’s more like a release after – hopefully – a long life. However, I totally understand why some fear it. Most times this comes out of an absence within the absence of belief; if you can’t reconcile yourself with death as, for all intents and purposes here, an atheist, then there’s a gap in the concept of life and death, a glaring, empty space where fear can grow.
This is where Miles exists, in this space, and other spaces like it. He fears death, seemingly because of its uncertainty. At the same time, he wants to believe. This leads him on his quest. He’s traumatised on top of it, exacerbating his fears. So it’s interesting to watch how affected he is by this quest, too. He wants to find something, to negate his big fear. But the dark irony comes via the fact that, once he DOES find what he’s looking for it’s altogether terrifying, more so than any death where we just disappear into a void of nothingness.
We Go On is the perfect example of a modern urban Gothic horror. Miles actually specifically points out his phobia of any “decay or rot.” He’s absolutely horrified by cars, he hates being in them, and it only gets worse if he’s not the one driving; even then, he barely drives himself anywhere, if at all. What’s interesting is that, within this traumatic phobia of death, there’s a fear of the modern, of the decay/rot which comes with time, with modernity. He fears the car, one of the largest, most significant symbols of modern invention over the past few centuries.
When our protagonist finally sees ghosts, they occupy a much different space than usual, in an odd place, past the airport. A decayed set of urban ruins, left behind by the rich when the airport was built; another instance of modernity setting in, disrupting. In general, Los Angeles is depicted as grey, dull and dreary, a dreaded landscape where the sun does shine, but slightly obscured, hidden behind clouds on the city skyline, the pollution of the planes jetting onto the air. In this sense, the urban landscape with its Gothic sprawl of supernatural elements mirrors the headspace in which Miles find himself.
Traditional haunted houses are subverted, replaced by drug squats, schools, the airport, and other atypical locales, the main stand-in for a horror monster – aside from the ghosts – being Miles’ fear of the car as an object of death. The car/the vehicle also breaks the barrier between living and dead, an intriguing symbol. The radio comes alive with ghostly voices as Miles drives. A bus intercom does the same later. At home, his TV appears on only to him and no one else. Technology versus the old world of ghosts, modernity juxtaposed against the past.
There’s a fantastic end, both morbid in one sense, beautiful in another. Miles and his journey come to a conclusion. Some may not be happy with it, others, like myself, may love it. Visually, the nightmare that opens the film comes full circle, also closing the plot off thematically. It’s not what you’d expect, and that’s refreshing in and of itself.
We Go On is on top of Father Gore’s list of best horrors in the past few years, likely in the top 25 since 2010. There are plenty of awesome horror films lately, despite what certain critics and fans will try and tell others. And in the indie world, horror is absolutely killing the competition, in any genre. This film most certainly belongs up there with the best of them lately.
Put this on your Halloween marathon list! Spook yourself alone, or get a couple friends, turn down those lights, let the ghosts get under your skin. Let’s hope Mitton and Holland do more genre work in the future, because they’re obviously a talented team with fresh perspective.