I had no idea what to expect from Jim Mickle’s ‘We Are What We Are’. I went in knowing nothing about it, other than that it was a remake of a recent Spanish movie of the same name. This haunting film is ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ for the indie crowd. It’s beautiful, brutal and very well acted.
In rural upstate New York, the mother of the Parker family suddenly dies while shopping for groceries. Much to her family’s dismay, life must go on. The two older sisters, Iris (Ambyr Childers) and Rose (Julia Garner), are expected to take over the household, as their younger brother Rory (Jack Gore) is constantly hungry. Meanwhile, their father Frank (Bill Sage) tries to maintain his emotions and keep things running normally. However, things are far from normal with the Parker family. They have a deep dark secret that has been passed on from generation to generation.
We soon find out just what this horrific secret is when a teenage girl from their town goes missing. Over the years, lots of other people from the surrounding area have also gone missing. Well, it turns out that the Parkers are cannibals and have a strange ritual they adhere to that involves dressing like Puritans and having long prayers before their meals. Hey, that’s family tradition, right?
Their neighbor Marge (Kelly McGillis) senses that something is wrong when she babsits young Rory during his mom’s funeral. He tells her he’s hungry, then bites her finger and begins sucking on the blood. The local coroner (Michael Parks) suspects something when he finds more than he can handle in their mom’s autopsy. While the town sheriff isn’t willing to listen to the coroner, he enlists the help of a young deputy who went to school with the oldest daughter and might have a crush on her. Unfortunately for him, he gets more than he bargained for.
Director Mickle splices in flashback footage of the family’s ancestors from olden times taking part in this sadistic tradition. He also showcases each family member in the present day struggling with their ways. The story ends in one of the best movie climaxes in recent memory. It slowly builds up to balls-to-the-wall suspense that will make your jaw drop.
Childers and Garner are terrific in their roles, as both struggle to leave this way of life, which they realize is wrong but is the only thing they know. As the father, Sage plays it calm and collected, but can quickly turn on the rage. What’s really original about this is that the family plays an active part in their community. They’re not just crazy shut-ins, like we’ve seen so many times before with movies in this genre. Mickle’s filming of the story is beautiful. Some of his shots will haunt you for days.
If you’re looking for a different, original and scary film this Halloween season, this is one of the best horror movies in a long time. I can’t wait to see ‘We Are What We Are’ again. Plus, I might have to think twice the next time I eat a bowl of chili.