Writer/director duo Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton first appeared on the indie horror horizon in 2010 with their 2010 quasi-found footage film Yellowbrickroad. Since then, the pair has contributed a segment to the 2013 horror anthology Chilling Visions: 5 Senses of Fear. Their latest feature, We Go On, reveals that Holland and Mitton have upped their collective game considerably.

Miles Grissom is a classic neurotic, suffering from multiple phobias, including agoraphobia (fear of open spaces), amaxophobia (fear of driving), and septophobia (fear of rot), all of which come under the general umbrella of thanatophobia, or fear of death. His problems started when he was three years old and his father was killed in a car crash. He works from home editing infomercials. When he has to go somewhere, he takes the bus.

Miles is sick of living in fear, so he takes out a classified ad, begging for someone to prove to him the existence of ghosts, thinking that if he knows what happens after he dies, it will no longer hold power over him. His mother, alarmed after seeing the ad in the paper, comes to his apartment to help him vet the 1,000+ responses he’s received in response to his public plea for help.

Right away, We Go On sets itself apart from other films that try to mix horror with comedy.

Right away, We Go On sets itself apart from other films that try to mix horror with comedy. Clark Freeman (Daryl from Yellowbrickroad) portrays Miles as a fully-fledged character, revealing not only his self-deprecating humor but also his panic attacks. The viewer fully identifies with Miles and his fears. After all, who among us isn’t phobic about something?

Additionally, Miles and his mother Charlotte (the always-outstanding Annette O’Toole) have a relationship that feels utterly authentic. In the beginning of the film, they’re like a mother and son version of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, sorting through the claims of potential charlatans in a quest for the truth. This gives the audience people they can not only relate to, but also root for.

When Miles meets Nelson, a seemingly nondescript dude who promises that he can answer those existential questions there is a nagging feeling that something isn’t quite right; horror movie veterans might even think of Pet Sematary’s Pascow.

When Miles meets Nelson… there is a nagging feeling that something isn’t quite right.

We can tell something scary is going to happen, and we may even know what that “something” is, but when it happens, it is legitimately frightening. Mitton and Holland know how to ratchet up tension and when to restrain things to maximize effect. Better yet, the frights are not red herrings, but clues that point the viewer in the direction of narrative questions that are eventually answered.

None of the many effective scares in We Go On would work as well as they do without the audience being fully invested in these characters, their relationships with each other, and the various paths they are taking. The entire cast is outstanding, with each character sharply defined, something that is not found in a lot of horror movies, much less movies of other genres.

Shifting between horror and comedy isn’t always easy. It can come across as either not scary enough or simply not funny, but the humor in We Go On isn’t of the broad slapstick variety. We Go On skillfully shifts between being scary and funny. It’s completely in keeping with the tendency that we have, as humans, to laugh when we are nervous or even terrified.

We Go On skillfully shifts between being scary and funny.

It seems that Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton have taken to heart the frequent complaint that horror films lack solid characters and strong narratives, because they have crafted a film that boasts an abundance of both. We Go On is a witty, thought-provoking, and intelligent film, yet one that is also downright creepy as hell. Watch it.

We Go On is set to premiere at Cinequest in San Jose, California on Saturday March 5th. Additional screenings take place on the 6th and 12th.