Confinement horror emerges as a greatly untapped genre in general, as it allows for the all too human fear for the unknown to bloom in unexpected ways. Sean King O’Grady’s debut feature, We Need To Do Something, is based on Max Booth III’s eponymous novella, which dissects the ominous undercurrents of familial dynamics, pushed to the brink when heightened within the confines of a single room. Unpredictability being its lone strength, We Need To Do Something is an uneven survival horror that gets caught up in its own pretentious trappings.
Opening with haunting aerial shots of a desolate town interspersed with lush foliage, We Need To Do Something locks in on a family of four on the verge of riding out a massive thunderstorm together in their spacious, suburban bathroom. Dressed in alternative clothing, pink glitter adorning her eyes, teenager Melissa (Sierra McCormick) seems continually on edge, compulsively checking her phone to check up on her schoolmate Amy (Lisette Alexis). Her little brother, Bobby (John James Cronin) finds comfort in the safety of family, while parents Diane (Vinessa Shaw) and Robert (Pat Healy) indulge in passive-aggressive back-and-forths that get progressively worse. As an intense thunderstorm rages outside, tension breaks out between the already fragile dynamics of family, which only become accentuated by an unseen, unknown threat.
Right off the bat, the premise of We Need To Do Something mirrors the unsaid anxieties of the pandemic, especially the prospect of being confined inside a limited space, the outside world posing a greater, unknown threat invisible to everyone’s immediate comprehension. O’Grady does a commendable job in capturing this great uncertainty, building suspense and anxiety through offscreen sound effects and the sheer power of suggestion. However, despite these clever tactics, the narrative of We Need To Do Something lacks tautness, as some of the scares in question come off as unfounded and exaggerated.
Interestingly, the narrative gets murkier with time, brought to life via flashbacks to a hex carried out by Melissa and Amy, which opens a portal to horrors beyond human understanding, and unleashes something unholy upon the world. While the hex is central to the events of the tale, the details and personal motivations remain unclear and half-baked at best. On paper, Amy is an intriguing character, a lone, mysterious figure battling her own demons, whilst dealing with Cotard Delusion, a plot point that could have been handled with more sensitivity.
On the other hand, Robert proves to be an immensely unstable presence in the scenario, making strings of terrible decisions as a parent, especially when he attempts to forcefully squeeze Bobby through the barely-ajar bathroom door. A demon-dog voiced by Black Sabbath’s Ozzy Osbourne is also featured off-screen, followed swiftly by a scene in which the family partakes in cannibalism in an almost nonchalant manner. We Need To Do Something undoubtedly features some bone-chilling sequences, replete with commendable special effects and unforeseen narrative twists. However, despite it all, the film fails to pack a punch or make a meaningful impact, and the slow-burn nature of the narrative only serves to add to the disappointment.
McCormick belts out a dynamic performance as the rattled Melissa, a teenager chained by guilt and anxiety, unable to articulate the ominous significance of the events that occur throughout. The rest of the cast play out their respective parts fairly well, introducing a sense of balance between grounded optimism and horrifying volatility, imbuing the film with a cadence that works for the most part. Perhaps, the gaping lack in We Need To Do Something is the fact that it mimics the best parts of psychological and Lovecraftian horror without truly understanding it. In the end, Melissa and Amy come across as a messy amalgamation of stereotypical teen tropes, as their psychological patterns are not invested with depth or meaning, robbing the film of the authenticity it pretends to exude.
We Need To Do Something premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in June 2021 and was theatrically released by IFC Films on September 3, 2021. It is 97 minutes long and remains unrated as of now.