‘We Are Not Alone’ feels like nothing at all

If I taught a horror history course, I’d open it with the Peruvian bore, “We Are Not Alone.” Not because it’s anything special, mind you. It’s just a beat-for-beat catalogue of the horror genre’s clichés: a house with a sealed basement door, possessed children’s toys, a man who inexplicably distrusts every woman in his life, etc. The list is so extensive that not a single frame of this movie feels distinctive. They’re all imitations of far better shockers like the original “Amityville Horror,” “The Exorcist” or “House on Haunted Hill.”

Up until the hour mark, I gave it the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it would subvert these clichés, reveal director Daniel Rodríguez to be a true horror fan and not a talented hack. Ultimately, it does not subvert those clichés and its director is just a talented hack. He’s seen a lot of horror movies and he knows how they work. So much so that that’s all his attempt at the genre does: work. It’s functional more than entertaining and lacks any love or passion. In fact, summarizing the plot feels pointless. Anyone who’s watched even thirty minutes of a haunted house movie could predict the whole thing.

Freshly employed widower Mateo (Marco Zunino) moves his girlfriend Mónica (Fiorella Díaz) and daughter Sofía (Zoe Arévalo) out to a vacation home for the summer. They’re settled in but a few nights before Mónica discovers a hidden basement, looking on the inside like the prop room of a better movie. A terrible force is released and begins to wreak havoc on the family. Padre Rafael (Lucho Cáceres) catches wind of their troubles and, recovering from a traumatic past of his own, decides to help the family.

Now, there have been bad horror movies that coast on their leads’ performances. “We Are Not Alone” fails on this account as well. Zunino, Díaz, and Cáceres have the charisma of old sheetrock. If you watched their performances on mute, you wouldn’t know they were in a horror movie. Things fantastical or mundane don’t seem to register on their faces. For all their raised voices and faux indignation, it’s hard to tell if they care. A strange tension arises from this: they don’t care so much that it seems like nothing important’s happening at all.

The scares, even with effective build up, fall flat on their face. The story chugs along like its beats were fed into a machine. The characters go towards those terrifying noises because, well, that’s what you do in a horror movie. I walked away from “We Are Not Alone” with the strange feeling that I hadn’t watched anything. It’s a boring, perfunctory entry in a genre bursting with them. It’s a bad movie, which is excusable if it has memorable moments, but an average movie like this is never excusable. It takes no risks because it doesn’t have to. And it ends up feeling more hollow than a bamboo shoot. In a word, “We Are Not Alone” is what no movie wants to be: unremarkable.