We Need to Do Something

I've always admired horror filmmakers with the courage to walk on the edge. Sean King O'Grady, who makes his feature debut with We Need to Do Something, clearly demonstrates that willingness. Certain ideas and images here were enough to make this veteran horror-watcher squirm. No small feat. Unfortunately, the story itself can't support those disturbing elements. The shocking stuff ends up seeming more exploitative than necessary. I look forward to seeing where O'Grady goes next in his career; hopefully, experience will help him learn how to achieve a better balance.

The film focuses on a family of four: father Robert (Pat Healy), mother Diane (Vinessa Shaw), son Bobby (John James Cronin), and teen daughter Melissa (Sierra McCormick). They head into the bathroom for safety when a massive storm hits. A tree falls into the house, pinning the door shut and leaving them trapped for days without food or a way to call for help. Melissa isn't so sure this was a natural storm, though. In flashbacks, we see her burgeoning relationship with Amy (Lisette Alexis), a troubled young woman who dabbles in the occult. Her theory is borne out when something reveals its presence on the other side of the door.

For the most part, We Need to Do Something is a chamber piece. Aside from those few flashbacks, the entire story unfolds within the bathroom. To make this sort of thing work, the dynamic between the characters has to be deep enough to hold our attention. That's where the movie falters. We quickly grasp that Robert is an alcoholic with an anger problem, making him a natural antagonist for everyone else, yet very little is done with that, aside from having him terrorize his family. Diane and Bobby, meanwhile, are one-dimensional. Drama between the family members just isn't rich enough for us to get anything out of it.

McCormick (The Vast of Night) is the movie's highlight. Her performance as the scared Melissa is excellent. The actress has a powerful way of conveying the dread her character feels knowing that she may be partially responsible for something unfathomable. McCormick also gets to take part in the actual horror of We Need to Do Something. The first of the two most memorable scenes arrives when she retches at something so credibly that we come close to doing it, too. The second is a supremely gory nightmare/hallucination Melissa has. Her talents help these bits hit hard (as they should).

The sheer grotesqueness of those two sequences in particular indicates what We Need to Do Something could have been, if only the family drama had more substance. Those scares needed to be grounded in ideas we could relate to. Alternately, the movie could have gotten around that by minimizing the family scenes to devote more time to the Melissa/Amy romance. Either approach would have worked. Max Booth III's screenplay gets the mixture wrong, resulting in a picture that undermines its promising concept.

out of four

We Need to Do Something is unrated but contains graphic violence and adult language. The running time is 1 hour and 37 minutes.