“We need to stick together now.”
There is no doubt in my mind that Jim Mickle is a very talented director. His film, Cold in July, was one of the pleasant surprises from last year, so I decided to give his earlier film, We Are What We Are, a watch. It was well received by critics and I understand why because it is well shot and Mickle knows how to build the right atmosphere, but this horror film was a bit too gory for my personal taste. I don’t get any pleasure from watching films like this with shocking and graphic visuals without serving any other purpose. We Are What We Are isn’t a horror film that aims to scare its audience, it’s true purpose is to shock them through a carefully constructed build up. The film is a bit slow paced but it doesn’t take too long to introduce us to the premise. What it amazingly does well is keep up the tension once the premise is revealed, which I thought would be the highlight of the film. The story still delivers twists along the way, but it simply didn’t work for me because certain scenes were just too difficult to digest.
This horror drama is actually a remake of a 2010 Mexican film directed by Jorge Michel Grau, but most critics agree that this is the superior version thanks to Mickle’s craft and solid casting. The story introduces us to Emma Parker (Kassie DePaiva) as she is heading towards a grocery store. She is apparently very ill and collapses after exiting the store. She falls into a pit that is flooded from the pouring rain and drowns. When the officers arrive to her secluded home to inform her family we meet her husband, Frank (Bill Sage), their two daughters, Iris (Amber Childres) and Rose (Julia Garner), and their young son Rory (Jack Gore). It is evident from the get go that the Parker’s are hiding a secret. The daughters are very fearful of their father and seem to be very submissive. Frank is a religious man and he has his family fasting for the day as they prepare for one of their strict rituals. The death of his wife has shifted the responsibilities for everyone in the family, and despite the pain of losing his wife, Frank is determined to go on with their custom. However the unrelenting rain has uncovered a secret near the Parker’s property that Deputy Anders (Wyatt Russell) has begun investigating. Doc Barrow (Michael Parks) has also found some disturbing evidence while examining Emma’s body, but his theory is a bit far fetched. It all leads to a shocking discovery.
I don’t want to give away what the shocking revelation is although it has been detailed in some summary plots. I actually went into the movie knowing what it was, but it isn’t really much of a surprise either considering that it is revealed early on in the movie. What Mickle manages to do well is keep building the drama and the suspense despite it all. The performances here also elevate the material. Bill Sage is a menacing presence and the control he has over his family is very believable. The two daughters are also brilliantly portrayed by Childres and Garner. The film has its strong moments, but as I said before there are too many scenes that disturbed me and didn’t allow me to enjoy the film at all. We Are What We Are is one of those films that delivers exactly what you are expecting so if you are a fan of gore you probably will be satisfied, but if you have a weak stomach like I do then this isn’t the film for you.