We Are What We Are
Nick Damici and Jim Mickle
Kassie DePavia as: Emma Parker
Laurent Rejto as: Hardware Clerk
Julia Garner as: Rose Parker
Ambyr Childers as: Iris Parker
Jack Gore as: Rory Parker
Bill Sage as: Frank Parker
Kelly McGillis as: Marge
Emma Parker (Kassie DePavia, who played Bobbi Jo in the classic Evil Dead 2) goes to a hardware shop to make some purchases. It’s raining hard outside, as there is a nasty storm coming. She passes in front of her car and falls into an ever growing and deeping puddle of water, where she ends up drowning. Her family consisting of her husband, Rory (Bill Sage) and three children soon get the dreadful new of her passing. Coincidently, they were already fasting, a tradition passed on from their ancestors. This is part of another tradition that they keep; that of cannibalism. Thirty people have been going disappearing in the town for a long time now, including the daughter of Doc Barrow (Michael Parks), who does the mom’s autopsy.
A little bit later, his dog finds what appears to be a human bone; that the rain has washed up. He tells the authorities, who are reluctant to believe it’s human. Meanwhile, with the passing of her mother, it falls on pretty, older daughter Iris (Ambyr Childers) to deal with the responsibility of the girl they currently keep in the basement, as well the preparing of her as a meal. But, she and her sister Rose (Julia Garner) are soon conflicted with their cannibalistic custom. At the same time, Deputy Anders (Wyatt Russell), who is in love with Rose, is on the case of finding out where the bone came from, as well as trying solve the cause of the mother’s death. Doc is drawing closer and closer to truth. Their neighbor, Marge (Kelly McGillis), may unwittingly be getting closer to find out what is occurring, as well. And, Rory’s insanity, which is spear headed by his domineering religious dogma, is slowly increasing and bubbling to the top. All, of these aspects will come together for a shattering climax.
We Are What We Are is a remake of the 2010 Mexican horror film of the same. This film, however, is reviewed on it’s own merits, rather than as a remake… there just isn’t familiarity with the first and therefore cannot be a comparison.Co-writer and director Jim Mickle, whose previous movies are the acclaimed horror films Stake Land and Mulberry Street, has given us a slow moving but worthwhile film. At first it feels like more like a drama, than an outright genre piece, albeit one with a very dark heart beating at its center. As it progresses its horrors begin to bubble up and reveal themselves. Even though from the very beginning, we know that something is very wrong with the Parker family. They are certainly not the run of the mill small town family. And, while it takes it’s time to unravel it is worth the wait of the viewer. Especially in the case of the last forty minutes which slowly ratchet up the tension until the very end which might be the best ending in any horror film released this year.
Mickle gives the movie a dark look and somber look. He keeps the film deathly serious when only a few bits of humor seeping in. And, when they do; they are jet-black. It’s also mostly a restrained film in its depiction of gore and violence. For the most part, the murders occur off-screen or are aftermath images; only to hit the audience with a few choice bits of grue, in small and sparse amounts, like the graphic autopsy scene and the sanguinary finale. Fans of cannibalistic violence will not be disappointed.
The horrors of religious control and forced dogma play a major part in the solid script from Mickle and Nick Damici. This damnation of such mentality is at the film’s forefront and the heart of its story. It makes for a fascinating and terrifying viewing and is one of the aspects that I found most captivating from the movie. This isn’t just some mindless cannibal film it is one that shows how religion can be perversed into something truly horrifying.
And, that aspect is expertly bought to life by the cast. This is spearheaded by Bill Sage’s phenomenal performance as the insanely terrifying father. Yet, there are moments where he comes off as a loving family man, not unlike Terry O’Quinn in the first two Stepfather films. Though, Rory’s insanity is clearer and more in the forefront of his family, than O’Quinn’s character was. As a result of his unstable mentality, the family has come to accept or more precisely fear him and what he is capable of.
Amber Childers also gives a great performance, as the conflicted, older daughter. She is caught between her fear of her father and following her family’s horrific and sick traditions and her own conflicted morality. Young Julia Garner gives us a moving performance as her terrified sister, her character’s development up and until the smashing climax is one of the film’s true highlights. I also quite enjoyed Michael Park as the film’s de facto and determined protagonist, Doc. I really savored how it is that he puts all the pieces of the mystery together.
The slow burn can allow the audience to “wander off” at some parts, but if you go in this movie with the right attitude, not looking for a wall to wall gorefest with an unrelenting pace, you will be satisfied with the results. It’s a movie best akin to waiting for something you may have ordered and are waiting for it to come in the mail. It may take its time but when it gets there it’s pretty a pretty pleasing feeling. And, as the mysteries unfold and We Are What We Are reaches its ending, so does it.