Monday, August 1, 2016

Fantasia 2016--We Go On--Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton (2016)

Miles (Clark Freeman) wants proof of life after death, but is also afraid to find it in We Go On (2016)
I am afraid of dying.  Most people are.  I keep hoping some hot vampire will invite me into his or her immortal club with a kiss, but the window in which I'm okay with living in this body forever is rapidly closing.  Still, I try not to think about my impending death too much IRL, and channel those fears into the pleasures of the supernatural horror genre.  Is there life after death?  It's a question that haunts us, and no one is more plagued by this question--to the point of phobia--than strapping but terrified Miles (Clark Freeman) in Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton's sharply-written and fiercely intelligent supernatural thriller We Go On (2016).

Miles and his Mom (Annette O'Toole) sift through the viable answers to his ad
With the help of a small inheritance, Miles attempts to alleviate his crippling fear of death by placing an ad saying that he will give $30,000 to anyone who is able to give him "definitive proof" of life after death.  Of course, he gets his share of nutters and hoaxes, but with the help of his Mom, who's kind of worried about this particular project, they narrow things down to three viable options (and some maybes): a professor, a medium, and some guy with a magic box (like the Hellraiser box, people)!  I'm not going to give away what happens with any of these folks, but suffice to say that once a certain door opens, or once you squeeze the toothpaste, or whatever cliche applies--there's NO GOING BACK.  Or is there?

Miles's fears start leaking into his waking life
The smart writing and strong performances in this film are nicely counterbalanced by some choice visuals, and I really appreciate a film with this strapping white guy lead who is both terribly flawed and scared of everything.  We're so used to white guy heroes blundering about on a testosterone-fueled hubris mission that to see a man constantly freaking out, yet clearly set up as the film's hero, is damn refreshing.  Despite Clark Freeman's commendable performance, every scene is stolen by Annette O'Toole as Miles's morally questionable Mum.  She's fiercely protective of her son, but not in a cloying way; rather, she's a shoot first and then ask questions kind of lady.

Nelson (Jay Dunn) lurks around a graveyard
Kudos to Jay Dunn for making the LAX-loving Nelson initially benign and a little sad, to twitchingly menacing shortly later.  Dunn and co-director and writer Andy Mitton were there for a Q & A after their film screened at Fantasia.  Mitton admitted that he "believes in the paranormal," and that he's the "no doubt believer" while Jesse Holland is the skeptic, creating a creative balance between the two.  Both men, with Jay Dunn, all went to Middlebury College, and as a professor at a small liberal arts college myself, I know the kind of spark that can ignite a creative group of students to produce great things.  Middlebury should be very proud.  We Go On is a smart and frequently witty thriller, and I hope it gets a wider release so more people can see it!