Sean King O’Grady crafts a claustrophobic horror picture that has a lot of promise but falls short.
We Need to Do Something, which is Sean King O’Grady’s debut movie, is a horror picture that can be interpreted on two distinct levels, albeit your mileage may vary depending on which one you choose to pursue. It includes a few fascinating aspects but never finds a way to bring them together into a satisfying totality as a basic horror story, even with flashes of horrific dark comedy tossed in from time to time. On the other hand, if the operation is seen on a more explicitly symbolic level, it gets more strength and efficacy.
Even yet, it tends to lose its footing, mainly when the pretty powerful primary metaphor gives way to less fascinating episodes of violence. In either case, it finishes on such a clumsy and ineffectual note that viewers may get the impression that O’Grady and screenwriter Max Booth III have been playing them. A sensation heightened by the all-too-appropriate choice for a significant musical cue near the conclusion.
It is a dark and stormy night when the film begins. A family that consists of parents Robert (Pat Healy) and Diane (Vinessa Shaw), their teenage daughter Melissa (Sierra McCormick), and their younger son Bobby (John James Cronin)is preparing to hole up in their home large bathroom to ride out an impending tornado warning. As we rapidly realize, the storm outside is nothing compared to the ones inside. Whatever good days there may have been in the marriage of the alcoholic and violent Robert and the fed-up Diane are long gone. Melissa is more worried than anything else about locating her lover Amy (Lisette Alexis), with whom Something happened earlier that day.
The electricity goes out all of a sudden, there is a tremendous crash, and as the storm passes, it appears that a tree has fallen right outside the bathroom’s single door, which can now only be opened a few inches at most. The family is now practically imprisoned together, with the entire room designed like a bunker and the expected lack of any mobile service. Inevitably, no one shows up, and as the hours turn into days, the mix of cabin fever and hunger sends everyone over the brink.
To make matters worse, Melissa’s only contact with the outside world comes in the shape of a series of progressively strange events that imply that Something she and Amy did may be to blame for everything.
I’m not sure how We Need To Do Something played out on the page, but I suppose it might work on some fundamental level when all of the action is contained within the reader’s mind’s eye. When presented in the more literal light of the movie, it is far less successful. For one thing, the parents are portrayed in such over-the-top extremes that you’re always aware that you’re seeing a pair of actors make extreme choices, rather than a believable married couple ripping into each other because they have nothing else to do. The subplot concerning Melissa and Amy and their probable crimes is delivered in a sequence of flashbacks that appear to be from a different picture (naming such film would probably constitute a spoiler), which all too frequently disperses the tension that has been building up in that bathroom.
However, suppose you approach the story on a more symbolic level, using the central situation—being trapped in confined quarters with no easy escape insight—as a metaphor for having spent the previous year in the grip of a pandemic that has compelled us to live in too-close quarters with loved ones In that case, the film is undeniably more effective, and even the occasionally over-the-top acting choices make more sense in this context.
However, that metaphor begins to play itself out at the end, and O’Grady and Booth III cannot bring it to a satisfying conclusion. Instead, the blood pours freely in the closing minutes in the hopes of diverting audiences from the film’s frustratingly ambiguous ending.
We Need To Do Something has a few redeeming qualities to mention. The performances are all terrific (the characters portrayed by Healy and Shaw may not make much sense, but they commit to their parts), and there are some wonderful moments of dark humour sprinkled throughout (such as the sight of Robert chomping down on alcohol pads to get a much-needed fix). There’s also a sensationally effective jump-scare sequence that proves all the more ingenious. It also demonstrates that O’Grady can direct a picture that works, both dramatically and symbolically, even if he does not do it this time.