Film

Review: A Family Tears Itself Apart From the Inside in Debut Feature Film We Need to Do Something

While many recent horror films have taken on the guise of a domestic drama, in which some evil or corrupt force exploits the cracks in the family dynamic and uses it to destroy from within, the feature debut from director Sean King O’Grady (who has produced a great number of films, including the recent The Assistant), We Need To Do Something, takes an even simpler approach by putting the evil entity on the outside and allowing the family to simply tear itself apart out of pure fear and paranoia.

We Need to do Something

Image courtesy of IFC Midnight

Based on the novella from Max Booth III (who adapted here as well), the story opens with a horrific storm raging outside a family’s home. They all gather in the rather spacious master bathroom just before what sounds like a tornado whips down the street, taking away most of the home in the process but depositing a tree outside the only door in or out of the room, effectively leaving them trapped. Assuming they’ll be rescued soon enough, no one panics at first. The clearly drunk dad, Robert, is played by the great Pat Healy, who has certainly portrayed his fair share of jerks over the years (Compliance, Cheap Thrills), but I don’t think he’s ever played one quite so brazen dickish or verbally abusive like he does here. Wife Diane (Vinessa Shaw) is clearly done with him, and we begin to suspect that phone calls she gets just before the tornado does its damage are from someone she is seeing on the side.

Speaking of mysterious phone calls, teen daughter Melissa (Sierra McCormick) is attempting to get in touch with her missing girlfriend Amy (Lisette Alexis) rather desperately, as if she has something to feel very guilty about. Finally, we have younger brother Bobby (John James Cronin), whose a bit of a disappointment to his father because he’s a sensitive lad who often seeks solace in the arms of his mother. For a great deal of We Need To Do Something, it seems as though the family is going to kill each other long before help ever arrives. They each take turns attempting to pry the door open, but from what little they can see of their street outside, there’s almost nothing left of the neighborhood. And it’s at about this point in the story where something outside of the obvious seems a bit wrong about the entire scenario.

A mysterious dog (that we never see) shows up at the door that reminds everyone of their dead pet buried in the back yard, until it speaks and runs away. An angry rattlesnake gets in to the bathroom more than once and causes real trouble for the family. When noises that sound like a rescue team finally do arrive, they are met by distinctly inhuman screams and sounds. The only time we leave the room are during a series of flashback of Melissa and Amy seeking revenge on a boy who secretly shot video of them kissing. Amy suggests they use an incantation she’s recently learned (apparently she’s a witch), but slight variations in the spell may have unleashed something long dead and capable of immense chaos.

Tensions in the bathroom are running high, with Robert in particular rapidly losing his already addled mind. Although the water still works, food is in short supply and the options of things to eat during the course of the film range from gross to unfathomable. Director O’Grady keeps things moving for the most part, although there are certainly pacing issues during the course of the film. Also, in the hands of a lesser actor, Robert might have come across as strictly one-dimensional villain material, but even in Healy’s capable hands, it’s tough to see exactly what Diane ever saw in him. This is a flaw in the writing, since it would have been useful to see even a hint of what Diane feel in love with years earlier, if only so we don’t see her as someone with terrible judgement for the entire movie.

With the single location and small cast, I’m guessing We Need To Do Something was made in the last year or so, although it certainly doesn’t wear the pandemic on its sleeve—although I do like the way the family dynamic exaggerates (slightly) the feeling of being trapped inside with those you are supposed to be closest to. Honestly, the idea that a pair of teenage witches might have caused whatever is going on in the world seems not only silly but slightly pointless, since knowing that doesn’t really impact the story ultimately, and it probably would have been scarier having no idea where the bumps and screams from outside came from. Still, the top-notch performances elevate the work considerably, and make O’Grady’s first feature a cause for excitement, especially about what he’ll came up with next.

The film opens in select theaters and will be available via VOD on Friday.

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