We Go On (2016)

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“Miles Grissom offers $30,000 to the first person who can prove to him that we go on after death.” — IMDb

We Go On was a random Shudder pick this morning as I laid in bed at 5:30am. I clicked into and back out of probably 5 other movies before I settled on this one. Honestly, my biggest draw was a) it dealt with life after death, and b) I had never heard of the directors before. We Go On is Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton’s sophomore feature (after 2010’s YellowBrickRoad), in addition to another short film they co-directed. I can’t vouch for those, but this film showed me that while they might cave for some more stereotypical horror tropes now and again — almost everyone does, really — they have the patience and the care to make a movie that goes so much deeper than just a few jump scares or ghost hunting.

Miles Grissom (Clark Freeman) has been consumed by fear ever since he was a young boy and dealt with the tragic and unexpected death of his father. His mother (Annette O’Toole) comes to spend a few days with him after seeing an ad in a local newspaper that she’s certain he placed: one that promises $30,000 to anyone who can show him proof of life after death.

** SPOILERS! **

My first praise of this movie has to be for Clark Freeman’s ability to portray the main character, Miles. He’s an extremely anxious, phobic, grieving man, and while that may not always be shown entirely accurately — the man is easily in his early 30’s and has never sat in front of a steering wheel but he pushes through just a momentary panic attack in order to drive for the first time — his personality and specifically his dry humor (he is downright hilarious at times) — perhaps another coping mechanism — make him extremely likable and relatable. Annette O’Toole is always great (I loved her in It — the 1990 classic, duh).

It has some genuinely scary moments in it. The tension I felt while he stood, paralyzed by fear, outside of locker 530, trying to force himself to call out to the boy who had died back in grade school, was palpable. It manages to keep those scares more subtle until after Miles discovers Nelson’s body in the abandoned house (another genuinely freaky moment that I didn’t see coming) — then they did succumb to the typical jump scares that result from quick flashes to images of dilating pupils or a woman’s screaming face (which wound up being more symbolic than I expected), or to Nelson’s decaying face as it distorts in anger, or things like the car radio turning on by itself with a cacophony of raspy voices. We can do better, guys.

But ultimately, as much as it was a movie about the supernatural, it was more so a movie about grief and dealing with loss, and they showed that in a way that didn’t feel contrived or cheesy. With quotes like “the ghost who haunts you is proof only of what happens when we are afraid to leave this world”, it’s a movie about Miles coming to terms with his lifelong fears and deciding to stop letting them ruin his time in this realm. His realization of “now I learn to live with a ghost. Maybe I can find a few things that make him happy. I’ll take him on his 6am walks. If I do that for him, maybe he’ll let me feel normal, just here and there; enough to justify going on” could be as much him talking about grief as him talking about depression and anxiety. It’s actually a quite beautiful way of summarizing the simple way in which people can take it one thing at a time — one day, one action, one attempt — in order to cope with whatever is weighing them down.

I really liked it, more than I expected to. It was smart and funny and touching while still maintaining this exploration of the supernatural and ghosts and even reincarnation, with some solid acting to boot. Nicely done.

Rating: 6.5/10 | Director: Jesse Holland, Andy Mitton | Writer: Jesse Holland, Andy Mitton | Cinematography: Jeffrey Waldron | Music: Andy Mitton | Starring: Clark Freeman, Annette O’Toole, John Glover, Giovanna Zacarías, Laura Heisler, Jay Dunn

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