Shudder UK film review: We Go On (2016)
Clark Freeman's edgy performance8
The supernatural made creepily natural9
Anton Bitel | On 03, Aug 2018Reading time: 4 mins
Director: Jesse Holland, Andy Mitton
Cast: Clark Freeman, Annette O’Toole, John Glover, Giovanna Zacarías, Jay Dunn, Laura Heisler
Watch We Go On online in the UK: Shudder UK
Every other weekend, our resident horror obsessive Anton Bitel delves into Shudder’s selection of horrors to handpick a Friday night fright.
Miles Grissom (Clark Freeman) is a man full of fear. He is afraid of heights, of crowds, of rot and, above all, of cars. When we first meet him in the opening scene, he is behind the wheel of an accelerating vehicle with failing brakes, and unable to retake control before the inevitable crash. This sequence, we learn, is a bad dream – or perhaps a past-life memory, or even premonition. Miles’ beloved father died in a car accident when Miles was just three – and ever since, he has never himself been able to command a vehicle. Now an adult, Miles knows that all his crippling anxieties come down to one: the fear of death. So, in the hope of alleviating his mortal terror, Miles places an advertisement in the LA newspapers, offering a reward of $30,000 to anyone who can definitively prove that there is life after death.
Miles is an editor of commercial videos, and as he works with his sceptical mother Charlotte (Annette O’Toole) through the thousands of video submissions sent in response to the ad, he brings his professional eye, quickly spotting the fakes (which is most of them). This video selection sequence, shown as a montage viewed by mother and son in an actual editing suite, plays out as both a tease(r) and a challenge from writers/directors Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton (YellowBrickRoad). For here, they are not only showcasing all the cheap tricks and cheats that we are used to seeing in horror, but also, in rejecting these gimmicks, promising that We Go On will take the genre forwards down a different path. The filmmakers, like Miles himself (and, for that matter, the ancient proponents of Epicureanism), reduce all fears to the essential fear of death, and follow Miles in his confrontation with his own and others’ mortality.
We Go On is a (car) trip as much into Miles’ past as much as his future, and into his psychological as much as his physical makeup. For it disinters his childhood relationship with both his mother and father, and his persistent sense of being pulled between what either one of them has come to represent for him. The primal scene here is Miles’ first memory: he sits as a toddler in the rear of a car, as his parents in the front – dad driving, mum in the passenger seat – jokingly argue the case for which one of them he should accompany that day. This binary choice affects the very narrative structure of We Go On itself. For it is a film of two halves – in the first, Miles goes on a desperate quest, and in the second, he must learn to cope with what he has found, and ultimately make that same old choice again.
Along the way, Miles meets with academic Dr. Ellison (John Glover), medium Josephina (Giovanna Zacarías) and airport worker (and occupier of liminal spaces) Nelson (Jay Dunn) – and learns from each of them something crucial about the nature and processes of death. “Look, you’ll understand after,” Nelson promises Miles (and us). “Once you see what I’m gonna show you, you’re kinda gonna be in the inner circle on this kind of thing and, well, you’ll be open to it – to them.” Sure enough, this is a journey, all at once psychological, philosophical and spiritual, from panic to acceptance, in which fear itself must be faced and overcome. We Go On is also concerned with the different stories and lies that we tell ourselves as a consolation for death’s inevitability. Its supernatural elements, when they do come, are conveyed in a disarmingly naturalistic, matter-of-fact manner – the very opposite of the cheesy videos that Miles surveyed with his mother. This is an exploration, but also an inversion – both of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense (1999), and, indeed, of Peter Weir’s Fearless (1993). It dismantles the horror genre, breaking it down to its core elements of fear and death, and then re-editing them into something satisfyingly profound.
We Go On is available to stream online on Shudder UK, as part of a £4.99 monthly subscription, or £49.99 yearly membership.
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