Review: ‘We Need to Do Something,’ starring Sierra McCormick, Vinessa Shaw, Pat Healy, Lisette Alexis and John James Cronin

September 11, 2021

by Carla Hay

John James Cronin, Pat Healy, Sierra McCormick and Vinessa Shaw in “We Need to Do Something” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films/IFC Midnight)

“We Need to Do Something”

Directed by Sean King O’Grady

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed U.S. city, the horror film “We Need to Do Something” features an all-white cast representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A family of four people are trapped inside their bathroom during a storm and find out that they could be the victims of something sinister and supernatural. 

Culture Audience: “We Need to Do Something” will appeal primarily to people who like watching any nonsensical, atrociously made horror flick, no matter how bad it is.

Sierra McCormick and Lisette Alexis in “We Need to Do Something” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films/IFC Midnight)

There are untold numbers of talented aspiring filmmakers who have great screenplays and need a big break to get their first feature film made. And that’s why it’s almost offensive that garbage like “We Need to Do Something” gets spewed into the world. The title of this movie should be “We Need to Do Something About Warning People to Avoid This Toxic Trash Posing as a Horror Film.”

There are numerous horrifically bad horror movies that get made in any given year, usually by the same type of no-talent filmmakers who like to copy each other and try to outdo each other with disgusting or misogynistic content. “We Need to Do Something” can be considered among the worst of the worst because it’s truly time-wasting garbage with an almost non-existent plot, idiotic dialogue, horrendous acting, and worst of all for a horror movie: It’s not even scary.

Directed by Sean King O’Grady, “We Need to Do Something” is based on Max Booth III’s novella of the same title. Booth also wrote the “We Need to Do Something” screenplay. You can tell this was based on a short story because 90% of this movie is badly conceived filler that goes nowhere but is instead stretched out into a feature-length run time. However, the filmmakers did such a terrible job with this story, it’s doubtful that it would’ve been better as a short film.

The entire plot of “We Need to Do Something” is about a family of four trapped in their house’s bathroom during and after a storm. Something large and heavy is blocking the door, which leads to the front yard, so that the door can barely open. There’s a window in this bathroom, which these morons don’t try to break to escape when the storm ends.

Bizarre things start to happen. And then, the family’s teenage daughter, who has been dabbling in witchcraft in a same-sex romance with a classmate, becomes convinced that these spell experimentations have something do with the family being trapped. The father gets increasingly drunk until he becomes more dangerous than whatever is trapping the family in the bathroom. Oh, and there’s a rattlesnake that shows up twice.

The first thing that viewers might notice is how weird it is that a house is designed to have a bathroom open into the front yard, when most houses’ bathrooms are located further inside a house. But the terrible production design ideas are the least of this crappy movie’s problems. This entire cesspool of filmmaking is an absolutely dull chore to watch.

If you want to torture yourself and watch until the end, you’ll see repetition of these scenarios to irritating levels: There’s no food in the bathroom, but somehow patriarch Robert (played by Pat Healy) has enough liquor and other alcohol to guzzle so that he gets drunk and yells abusively at other members of his family. Robert’s wife Diane (played by Vinessa Shaw) does her best to try to calm everyone down, and she tries to stop Robert from doing some heinous things as he becomes increasingly unhinged,

Robert and Diane’s daughter Melissa (played by Sierra McCormick), who’s about 16 or 17 years old, spends most of the movie sulking, getting angry at her parents, and thinking about her girlfriend Amy (played by Lisette Alexis), who is only seen in flashbacks. Robert and Diane’s son Bobby (played by John James Cronin), who’s about 11 or 12 years old, spends most of the movie being terrified, which is only exacerbated when his abusive father unleashes a lot of rage on Bobby.

In the beginning of the movie, Diane is telling everyone that the gusty winds heard outside are just a regular thunderstorm. She insists it’s not a tornado. It’s not fully explained why they’re all huddled in the bathroom, but it’s mentioned at some point that the house’s roof has come off, so they’re afraid to go in the rest of the house. In other words, it’s not a regular thunderstorm, so how dumb does that make Diane? The foolishness continues.

Meanwhile, if you and your family are experiencing an emergency, such as your house’s roof coming off in a storm, the first thing that you would probably do is get help to rescue you and your family. But no, that’s not what happens in “We Need to Do Something.” Melissa is using her phone to text messages to an unidentified person (probably Amy) who’s not answering her messages. One of Melissa’s messages says: “Please talk to me. I’m scared.”

These idiots are not thinking about calling anyone for help. In fact, Diane asks in the middle of this crisis if they want to play a board game called Goths and Vandals. Who thinks like this when they’re stuck in a bathroom with their house roof blown off? Only moronic people in a horrendously bad horror movie.

The phone that’s working perfectly somehow ends up in Robert’s hands. When he tries to open the door to the front yard, he accidentally drops the phone outside. There goes their only method of communication to the outside world. The phone could possibly get blown away by the heavy gusts of wind outside.

Melissa is enraged that her phone is now lost. She tries to poke her hand out the door to find it, but it’s of no use. Her parents also tell her to shut the door since the wind gusts are too strong. Melissa sulks some more because her phone is lost, and now they have no way to call for help. You should’ve thought of that while you were texting a friend who wasn’t answering your messages.

“We Need to Do Something” has several flashbacks to Melissa’s relationship with Amy. Both teenagers dress like they’ve spent too much time at Hot Topic, because they wear clothes and makeup that look like shopping mall versions of being a Goth or steampunk. Melissa has pink hair and pink makeup spread around her eyes like a raccoon. Amy sticks to basic black.

These flashback scenes in the movie just seem like an excuse for the filmmakers to show teenage girls making out with each other, sometimes with blood on their faces after they’ve done a witch ritual. Amy and Melissa have told each other “I love you,” just so people watching the movie know that wannabe teenage witches need love too. Melissa and Amy are apparently secretive about their romance and will go to extreme lengths to not let other people at their school find out.

And so what do they do? They start kissing each other on some bleachers at school when they think no one else is around. Because apparently, they think the best way to keep their romance a secret at school is to make out with each other in a public place at school. Of course, someone does see Melissa and Amy kissing at school. It’s a fellow schoolmate named Joe (played by Logan Kearney), whom Amy describes as a creep who’s been stalking her.

But this is the problem for Melissa and Amy: Joe had his phone out and filmed the two girls kissing each other. Melissa and Amy are paranoid that Joe will do something with that video footage that will ‘”out” them, ruin their reputations, and make them outcasts. And so, Melissa and Amy decide to cast a spell on Joe to get revenge on him.

While this family of four is trapped, they hear voices of people or creatures outside but the door can’t open wide enough to see who or what is making these sounds. At one point, it sounds like a dog is outside the door. When Melissa tries to pet it and says, “Good boy,” whatever is outside suddenly has a sinister-sounding human voice that responds, “I’m a good boy.”

Believe it or not, rock star Ozzy Osbourne is that voice, according the film credits. Someone must’ve called in a big favor. Osbourne, who famously bit off the head of a real bat during a 1982 concert, is namechecked in this movie when the snake appears. Robert is able to push the snake out the door, but he wonders out loud if they should’ve killed the snake for food.

Robert thinks that the way he could’ve handled the snake would be to “bite the head off, like Ozzy.” Diane replies, “Wasn’t that a bat?” Robert says, “Snakes are just bats that can’t fly!” Apparently, Robert wasn’t paying attention in school when they taught the difference between reptiles and mammals.

The atrociousness of this story devolves into scenes involving tongues getting ripped out of mouths, as well as talk of cannibalism when the trapped people haven’t been able to eat anything for days. It all leads to a vile ending that serves no purpose except to show that the filmmakers of “We Need to Do Something” will sink to the lowest depths of stupidity to make a horror movie.

IFC Films/IFC Midnight released “We Need to Do Something” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on September 3, 2021.

Review: ‘The Vast of Night,’ starring Sierra McCormick, Jake Horowitz, Gail Cronauer and Bruce Davis

May 29, 2020

by Carla Hay

Jake Horowitz and Sierra McCormick in “The Vast of Night” (Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios)

“The Vast of Night”

Directed by Andrew Patterson

Culture Representation: Taking place in the 1950s in fictional Cayuga, New Mexico, the sci-fi drama “The Vast of Night” has a predominantly white cast of characters (with one African American) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: Two young people unexpectedly find out about mysterious UFO occurrences that appear to involve massive government conspiracies and cover-ups.

Culture Audience: “The Vast of Night” will appeal mostly to people who like movies that explore issues about life in outer space and what the U.S. government knows about it.

Sierra McCormick in “The Vast of Night” (Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios)

People who don’t know anything about “The Vast of Night” before seeing this sci-fi drama will get some pretty obvious clues within the first 20 minutes of this slow-burn-to-intensity film that’s clearly been inspired by “The Twilight Zone.” Taking place in the 1950s, the movie is set entirely during one night in the fictional city of Cayuga, New Mexico, where some of the people have reported unidentified flying objects (UFOs) in the sky during a night with a full moon.

There have also been some strange interruptions in the electrical lighting in certain buildings. “The Vast of Night”—directed by Andrew Patterson and written by James Montague and Craig W. Sanger—takes a while to get the action going, but the last third of the film is worth sticking around for, as the movie deliberately builds up to a suspenseful pace.

The city of Cayuga in this movie at first appears to be the type of tranquil, middle-class suburb where the majority of the city residents will turn up for a Cayuga High School basketball game as a major social event. That’s what is going on in the beginning of the film, as viewers are introduced to Everett Sloan (played by Jake Horowitz), a radio DJ who goes by the on-air name “The Maverick” when he works at the local station.

Everett, who appears to be in his late teens or early 20s, has in his possession a portable reel-to-reel tape recorder, which was a fancy new technology invention at the time. He’s making the rounds at the school’s gym during the pre-game practice to test out the recorder, which he plans to use to record the basketball game. Everett interviews people in the gym because he’s an aspiring investigative news journalist, but there’s also a sense that he wants to show off this recorder too.

Everett’s activity is briefly interrupted when he’s asked to help out some school administrators who have reported an electrical power problem in the room where the generators are stored. Apparently, the lights have been blinking off and on in certain parts of the school, and they don’t want any of these problems during the basketball game.

When Everett arrives, he finds out that there was an identity mix-up, and they wanted to send for a guy named Emmett (the school’s electrician), not Everett. The administrators mention that the electrical glitches are probably because of a small animal, such as a mouse or squirrel. As the movie continues, it seems like the only purpose of this scene is to establish that the town is having some unexplained electrical problems.

One of the people whom Everett encounters when he’s showing off his tape recorder is 16-year-old Fay Crocker (played by Sierra McCormick), who’s fascinated and a little intimidated by this new technology. Fay and Everett aren’t close friends, and he treats her like an older brother who doesn’t want his younger sister tagging along. But tag along she does, as Sierra and Everett make their way into the school’s parking lot, where several families are in their cars, waiting to be let in for the basketball game. Everett goes from car to car to further test his new tape recorder.

Although the dialogue in “The Vast of Night” is spoken with a rapid-fire pace (in the manner that many American sci-fi/thriller films did back in the 1950s), the story unfolds in a leisurely manner in the beginning of the film. Not much happens in the first third of the movie, in order to create an atmosphere that this is supposed to be just a regular night in Cayuga, where the biggest thing going on is the basketball game.

Sierra and Everett aren’t staying at the basketball game because they have to work elsewhere. Everett is headed to the radio station, where he has a live broadcast for his music/talk show. Sierra is scheduled to work a shift alone as the city’s telephone switchboard operator.

Before they walk to their respective workplaces, Sierra and Everett have a lively discussion about some of the future technology that’s she’s read about in magazines like Modern Mechanics. She tells Everett that by the year 2000, there will be vacuum-tube transportation that can travel at incredible speed; phones that will look like tiny TVs; and lifelong telephone numbers as IDs that will be assigned to babies at birth, with the numbers disconnected upon death. Everett tells Sierra: “I believe the train tubes in the highways, but the tiny TV phones—that’s cuckoo.” (It’s the screenwriters’ obvious inside joke, since smartphones now exist.)

As soon as Sierra begins her switchboard operator shift, a few strange things start happening. She gets a call where all she hears is a repeated clicking-echo type of noise and nothing else. Then another call comes in, with a terrified woman saying that there appears to be a tornado coming toward her. A barking dog can be heard in the background, and then the caller is suddenly disconnected.

A concerned Sierra then calls a neighbor named Ethel to check on Sierra’s  pre-school-age sister Ethel and the babysitter Maddie, who are both home alone at Sierra’s house. Sierra has been listening to Everett’s radio show while she works. She hears the strange clicking sound at the beginning of the show’s news broadcast, so she calls Everett to ask him if he heard this strange noise too.

Everett didn’t hear it, but Sierra hooks him up to the phone line where he can hear it, and he records the noise. They both decide that Everett should play the noise on the air and ask listeners to call in and say if they recognize what this mysterious sound is.

A retired military man who identifies himself by the name Billy (played by Bruce Davis, in a voice role only) then calls in, and begins to tell a story live on the air. This story takes Everett and Sierra down a path of trying to uncover a mystery. Everett also gets a call from an elderly shut-in named Mabel Blanche (played by Gail Cronauer), who also has some information that’s part of the mystery, as the movie accelerates to a breakneck speed with a heart-pounding conclusion.

“The Vast of Night” uses a visual device of framing the story as if it’s an episode of a fictional show called “Paradox Theater” (an obvious nod to “The Twilight Zone”), by having some scenes open with the action playing out on a  tiny, 1950s-style black-and-white TV.  The movie’s cinematography by Miguel Ioann Littin Menz is infused with a lot of sepia tones that were common in movies of the 1950s, when color technology in films was still fairly new. And “The Vast of Night” also takes an unconventional approach by having the screen go completely dark during some suspenseful moments (one “blackout” scene lasts for about five minutes), which might give the viewers the impression that something is wrong with the screen or the movie’s playback.

Avid sci-fi fans will also notice some Easter eggs in “The Vast of Night,” such as Cayuga is the name of “Twilight Zone” creator Rod Serling’s Cayuga Productions. And the radio station that Everett works at is WOTW, which is an acronym for “War of the Worlds,” even though radio and TV stations west of the Mississippi River are supposed to have call letters that start with the letter K.

The only real flaw of “The Vast of Night” (and it’s a fairly minor one) is that the movie never really feels like it takes place in New Mexico, because “The Vast of Night” was actually filmed in Texas with a cast of mostly Texans and Oklahomans who keep their heavy Southern accents in the film. It’s kind of distracting for the cast to have the wrong accents, but this discrepancy in regional accents doesn’t take away too much from this engaging story. “The Vast of Night” might not be completely original in its subject matter, and the acting is good (not great), but the way the story is told with some unique touches should please die-hard sci-fi fans.

Prime Video premiered “The Vast of Night” on May 29, 2020.

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