Sunday, March 23, 2014

Movie Review: We Are What We Are (2013)

Just three years after the original Mexican film We Are What We Are was released, we already have an American remake. I don't mean that in a haughty, OMG-all-remakes-suck way either (because they don't). I'm really just surprised that it was remade at all because as far as I can tell, the 2010 version didn't get all that much buzz in the horror world. Maybe you shouldn't believe me when I say that because I'm not really that in tune with the horror world, truth be told. Anywho, I found the original and reviewed it here. To sum up, I appreciated the movie's aesthetic but overall found it to not be as exciting as the premise promised. This 2013 remake, however, is not that at all. I guess someone else found the same potential in this gruesome tale that I did and decided to work on it.

During a terrible rainstorm in their small town, the matriarch of the quiet Parker family suddenly dies. The grief-stricken family is now forced to deal with just what that means for them as their father forces the two daughters, Iris and Rose, to continue on with the family's traditions in place of their mother. And as the flooding of the town starts to wash up things long though buried, a local doctor gets suspicious of the Parkers, and what they might have to do with several missing people in the area.

To be honest, cannibals are still boring here. The movie is still somewhat tedious, more like a drama than a horror film, and a bit of a slow burn but there are other aspects at play that make it superior to the original. The only thing I will complain about is that I was not particularly fond of the historical reason given for why the members of the family were cannibals. Even after it was explained, it still doesn't really make a whole lot of sense for really why they would have continued the "tradition" for so long, especially considering what we find out it does to the family physically. They always talk about God, but it is really Him they are worshipping or their ancestors and what they created? Still a little confused on this part.

The two things that play in the movie's favor is the acting and the story (other than the confusing part). The story is improved upon mostly because of the addition of the doctor with a personal connection to the Parkers' actions. They only partake in the cannibalism once a year on Lambs Day so while they have obviously managed to elude capture, there are a lot of open missing persons cases around them, including the daughter of Doctor Burrow, played by Michael Parks. That side plot brought a wonderful human element to the story that the original was missingAnother interesting tidbit is just how the doctor found out about the cannibalism - the mother died of some rare disease (that is actually real) that is caused by eating human flesh. The switching of the genders of the family members was also a wonderful idea because it brought up so many other issues like the roles of women in religion, and a father ruling a family with fear and the children looking for a maternal substitute.

The acting is pretty superb especially by the girls playing Iris and Rose, Ambyr Childers and Julia Garner. Both girls are able to carry the look of children with a very serious and heavy weight on their shoulders, almost as if they are war-torn. While watching the film, I was almost begging them to smile just once because that constant shell-shock face they give was really depressing me. Michael Parks was another favorite as the doctor and his scene where he confronts the father was one of the best and the most suspenseful. Bill Sage plays Frank the father, and is equally good at portraying true sorrow and inflicting fear and obedience from his children. It was also very cool to see Kelly McGillis in a smallish role here as the Parkers' neighbor who keeps a constant watchful eye on the family.

There seems to be a little more blood in this remake than I remember from the original, but still not as much as you would expect. And for the most part, I was still a little disappointed in the regard that though We Are What We Are is still a dark and disturbing story, it's not as ballsy as it could be. But then I got to the last scene. Oh my gravy, that last scene. I suddenly felt very bad for all my misgivings and was praising this movie to the highest mountain. I don't want to talk about it specifically because it would be a terrible spoiler, but trust me, it's worth waiting for. Iris and Rose are so apprehensive and fearful of their father and what he makes them do all throughout the movie, yet they never really present themselves as actually being able to stop him and all the cannibal madness. I was wrong. These chicks are fucking hardcore.

Honestly though, what I saw more than anything was a tale about family, and what a family can survive and whether or not it can stay together. There are many examples of the loss of certain family members in We Are What We Are and how it affects the rest of the family. Of course, the mother dying deeply upsets everyone, but Frank is the one seen as the most emotionally affected by it, driven to uncontrollable crying and barely being able to move sometimes. Little daughter Rose, now without a mother, is devastated at the thought of losing her older sister Iris to a boy and being left in the family alone. Burrow lost his daughter years ago yet you can see on his face that it has never been forgotten. The Parkers have a secret and a way of life that keeps them bonded, but how long will that ruse work and how quick can a family be torn apart? We Are What We Are explores all this and more.

Whether you've seen the Mexican version or not, We Are What We Are should be on your watchlist. It has masterful direction and acting, and a story that appeals to both regular film lovers and horror lovers alike. And here's an interesting tidbit - the mother is played by Kassie DePaiva, whom I now know also played Bobbie Jo in Evil Dead II. Nice!


  1. Oh heavens, I LOVED this movie. I really enjoyed Somos lo que hay as well, however, I view them as almost completely different films. While Somos was more a study in chaos this one, to me, came across as more of a piece of art. I'm actually working on my review of it now, so it's funny to come across yours.

    I just thought it was great, it plays as more of a thriller/suspense film until those final 15 minutes when it just spirals into awesome territory. I also loved that they give a bit more background as to the origins of Lamb's Day. I felt like Mickle placed a lot more emphasis on the religious aspects for good purpose though, and this was part of it. I thought it was great commentary on the role that religion plays in our everyday lives; if we should let tradition define who we are and how it affects us in our lives and the lives of our loved ones.

    Great film and great review!

    1. Couldn't agree with you more RG. Great movie great review,

  2. Great review! This one was my favorite of 2013. I need to see the original . . . .