Wednesday, April 16, 2014

#1,339. We Are What We Are (2013)

Directed By: Jim Mickle

Starring: Bill Sage, Ambyr Childers, Julia Garner

Tag line: "Blood is the strongest bond"

Trivia: This film screened in the Directors' Fortnight section at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival

Being a fan of both Mulberry St. and Stake Land, I couldn’t wait to see what writer/director Jim Mickle was going to come up with next. As it turns out, his third feature, We Are What We Are, is a remake of a 2010 Mexican film (of the same name) by Jorge Michael Grau. Yet, despite the fact Mickle’s version shares thematic elements with Grau’s movie, 2013’s We Are What We Are takes the story in a very different (and altogether fascinating) direction.

At first glance, Frank Parker (Bill Sage) and his family seem perfectly normal, but the truth is they’re hiding a terrible secret, one that centers on a religious ceremony passed down from generation to generation for well over 200 years. Days before this ritual is to be performed, Emma (Kassie DePaiva), Frank’s wife and the mother of his 3 children: Rose (Julia Garner); Iris (Ambyr Childers); and Rory (Jack Gore), unexpectedly dies, leaving Rose and Iris to assume her responsibilities in the upcoming ceremony. But when a torrential rainstorm threatens to reveal their secret, Frank must take drastic measures to protect both his family and their chosen way of life.

Director Mickle approaches We Are What We Are much differently than he did either Mulberry St. or Stake Land in that he doesn’t provide any background information on his characters or their story, choosing instead to drop his audience smack dab in the middle of things, and then challenge them to keep up. Aside from a few subtle hints early on that all is not right with the Parkers (from how they communicate with one another to the subservient nature of the two daughters, which stems more from a fear of their father than it does parental respect), Mickle takes his time revealing what it is that makes the family so unique. This adds a level of mystery, but it also shows Jim Mickle’s confidence as a filmmaker, building his story in such a way that, even if we’re not sure what’s going on, we want to know more, and are willing to wait patiently as he pulls back the curtain, ever so slowly, to expose the truth.

Featuring marvelous cinematography, some top-notch performances (especially Garner and Childers, who are near perfect as the daughters forced to participate in something they’re not ready for), and a shocking finale that will leave you speechless, We Are What We Are is a rarity in modern horror: a remake that looks and feels like a completely original film.


Dave Karner said...

This looks compelling. Its amazing what great cinematography can do for a story. The actors really bring it here. I'll be looking for this one.

Zachary Bryant said...

I watched this on Netflix recently. I do agree with you on the cinematography and the acting, the story wasn't for me. I can appreciate what he was trying to do, but I almost felt their were too many points of view going on with Michael Parks' character and the members of the family, then sometimes with the neighbor Marge (though it wasn't extensive). I think I would have enjoyed it more either with the POV being with just the family, with more journal entries read, or solely on Michael Parks' character that leads to a better reveal about the family.

I'd give it a 6.5/10