We Need to Do Something

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There’s something of three different movie genres in We Need to Do Something. It’s an out and out supernatural horror movie featuring demonic creatures, a bit. An “escape room” thriller about the perils of not co-operating, a bit. And a fraught drama about a marriage collapsing, also a bit. Taken individually none of these genre strands does anything staggeringly original, technically remarkable or drivingly tense, but you’ve got to admire the way writer Max Booth III and director Sean King O’Grady stitch the parts together.

A family retires to a bathroom convinced a tornado is coming. It is, and within minutes of screen time the storm is howling all around them, eventually uprooting a tree outside, which topples and blocks their exit to the outside world. They can open the thick oak door a crack but nothing more. How many bathrooms give out onto the outside world? Not a question to ask right now.

Inside are Diane (Vinessa Shaw) and Robert (Pat Healy), parents to teenage pink-haired gothlet Melissa (Sierra McCormick) and her young brother Bobby (John James Cronin). In flashbacks we meet Melissa’s even more goth-like friend Amy (Lisette Alexis) – studs, crucifixes, tattoos and the self-harm scarring that comes from being a “cutter”. Also on the cast list, if you look at the IMDb, are Logan Kearney as Joe, a stalkery guy glimpsed once vaguely, Dan John Miller as the Voice at the Door, a fleeting beacon of hope, and Ozzy Osbourne as Good Boy. Don’t rent the film to watch on the strength of Osbourne, it’s a voice-only role and his contribution lasts maybe four/five words, but his name gives some idea of the territory we’re in.

I mention the other names really to point out that this is the four of them locked in the room, plus Amy briefly in flashback, but it really is four people in a room for the most of it. The electrical power tends to come and go and the family has water, but no food. Here beginneth the tormenting, and it comes at them from three different directions: outside, inside and… who knows?… below?

Dad begins to go nuts
Pat Healy as the unlikeable Robert

From outside there are manifestations of the disrupted eco-system – snakes, mostly, the sort that rattle and bite, and a distinct lack of neighbourly assistance. From inside there’s the increasingly fraught relationship between Robert and Diane. From fragments of conversation we can gather that she might have been conducting an affair, on account of Robert being unbearable. From the supernatural realm there are menacing noises, a creature of some monstrousness at the door (the one with Ozzy’s voice) and the increasing realisation by Melissa that this might all be her fault. She’s been playing teenage voodoo – we see in flashback with Amy – and now the (headless) chickens have come home to roost.

The whole thing was shot during the Covid pandemic, and though it’s never referenced explicity, there is that life-in-a-time-of-affliction aspect hanging there for the taking, and family members forced into too-close proximity in a confined space is a kind of horror scenario a lot of people can buy into right now.

The flashback scenes – shot all woozily soft, shallow of focus, pastel of hue – provide a bit of relief from these four lock-ins. That’s when Melissa and Amy do their goth-bonding, plus the bit of gape-mouthed kissing that’s spotted by stalkery Joe and recorded on his phone, for wider dissemination later, prompting them to take supernatural action against him. Blood, wax, a bit of dessicated tongue, some Latin incantation… Joe’s in trouble.

But the main source of the trouble for the incarcerated family is Robert, who starts out in Big Dad mode – his joshing banter too personal, his dad-jokes too unfunny – and gets bigger and bigger, slurping mouthwash, sucking the alcohol wipes dry and over the days working himself into a frenzy of wild accusation – his wife’s a bitch, his daughter’s a witch etc etc, while DP Jean-Philippe Bernier ramps up the lurid horror lighting and director O’Grady ups the pace until… 

Pat Healy does a lovely job as the initially peevish, eventually monstrous Robert, for whom it does not end well. But one of the most satisfying aspects of the film is that it itself really does end well. It goes out on a high, still insisting that it’s a horror, a thriller and a drama all rolled into one and still, somehow, managing to pull it off.

We Need to Do Something – Watch it/buy it at Amazon

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© Steve Morrissey 2021

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