We Need To Do Something Review: The Family That Stays Together Goes Insane Together

You don't need a huge budget or grand sets to make a good movie. With a little elbow grease, inventiveness, and clever writing, a filmmaker can turn the smallest movie into something grand. And it's with that spirit one approaches "We Need to Do Something," a horror film set almost entirely in one location. Horror films stuck in one locale can yield good to great results — see "The Mist," "The Evil Dead," "Night of the Living Dead," and more. But the secret to success is to give us something to fixate on. If you're sticking all your characters in one room, and sticking us in there with them, you better make damn sure to bring something special to the table. And try as it might, "We Need to Do Something" never quite achieves that.

As "We Need to Do Something" commences, a tornado warning has sent a family into their surprisingly spacious bathroom to shelter. There's father Robert (Pat Healy), mother Diane (Vinessa Shaw), young son Bobby (John James Cronin), and gothy teen daughter Melissa (Sierra McCormick). It's clear almost immediately that this is not a tight-knit, loving family. Melissa is disdainful of her parents, but that can be forgiven; what teen isn't at least a little annoyed by their parents? But Robert and Diane seem to completely loathe one another and are at each other's throats almost immediately. Bobby seems to be the only pleasant member of the brood.

As the night wears on, and eventually turns into day, a tornado is the least of the family's problems. There's something very wrong here. And there's something lurking outside. To make matters worse, the family discovers they're trapped, unable to bust the door open, and without a window to crawl out of. But that doesn't stop things from getting in to the room — like very poisonous snakes, for instance. All the ingredients are here for something special. The "trapped during a storm" angle worked wonders for "The Mist," and that seems to be one of the primary influences on "We Need to Do Something." But while "The Mist" was able to milk both fear of monsters and fear of human beings from its premise, "We Need to Do Something" seems content to break down into a series of shouting matches.

Occasionally, director Sean King O'Grady — working with a script byMax Booth III, who wrote the novella that inspired the film — will cut to flashbacks involving Melissa and her girlfriend Amy (Lisette Alexis). In the bathroom, Melissa continually tries to reach Amy on the phone with no luck. In the flashbacks, we get more insight into just what the heck is going on here, and that feels like a fatal flaw. The horrors of "The Mist" needed no real explanation. Indeed, they were all the more frightening because they made no logical sense. Here, we get a rather convoluted situation that adds very little to the overall experience. Perhaps the filmmakers just thought they needed to leave the bathroom now and again to make sure we wouldn't get bored.

O'Grady manages to summon up some moments of real dread, but they're hampered by a goofy tone that keeps forcing its way in. Just when things feel like they might get truly scary, something happens, or someone does something, to alleviate the tension in a silly manner. It gives the entire film a vibe that lacks confidence. A horror movie shouldn't be this afraid of scaring us. That's kind of the whole point, isn't it?

But It's Not Quite Enough

The power goes out, lives are increasingly at risk, and patriarch Robert is unhinged almost from the get-go. Healy's performance is a hoot, playing the character as if he's gunning for a trophy that reads World's Worst Father. A thoroughly unpleasant man, his electrically-charged attitude does build up true tension, because we're all on edge waiting to see when he's going to completely snap and send everyone and everything into chaos. But it's not quite enough.

It doesn't help that the family seems like they're at each other's throats before they even get into the damn bathroom. Eventually, the film cuts back in time to show us how everyone ended up in the spacious lavatory, but by then we've already spent too much time watching them bicker and moan. If the clan had started off just a tiny bit agreeable and then descended into anarchy, it might pack more of a punch. Instead, we're ready to get the hell away from these people before things have even really started.

Then there's the very setting — that damn bathroom. It seems far too big, far too roomy, when it should be more claustrophobic. Worse, the dimensions and general layout of the room are never adequately represented by the camera. We can never get any real sense of where certain things, and people, are in the room. Perhaps that's by design to disorient us along with the characters. Perhaps not. Either way, a film stuck in one room should have a better sense of place than this.

A film about people trapped in place should resonate more right now, here in this hell world where the pandemic continues to hold us all hostage. But "We Need to Do Something" is too removed from reality to land such a distinction. That's not to say it's a total bust. Healy's goofy, frightening, manic performance keeps things lively, and McCormick, as the miserable teen who knows more than she's letting on, is able to nail big emotional swings.

But there's just not enough here to sustain a whole film, even at a brisk 97 minutes. "We Need to Do Something" ultimately feels like something that would work better as a short, or perhaps an entry in a bigger anthology about folks in similar situations. There are moments of dread and tension, and as the narrative wears on it goes to some commendably weird places. But by then it's too little too late, and the movie ends with us wishing that the characters really had done something — anything, really.

/Film Rating: 5 out of 10