We Are What We Are (Review)

WE ARE WHAT WE ARE (10/01/13; Horror)
Bill Sage, Julia Garner, Ambyr Childers, Kelly McGillis, Odeya Rush, Michael Parks, Wyatt Russell, Nick Damici, Jack Gore
SCR: Nick Damici, Jim Mickle; Based on Jorge Michel Grau’s film “Somos lo que hay”
DIR: Jim Mickle
MPAA: R for disturbing violence, bloody images, some sexuality, nudity, and language.
1 hour 46 mins
(E1 Entertainment)

 

It was a dark and stormy night, in particular right in the midst of Hurricane Edith. The town is is flooded, the power is out. A woman dies mysteriously. It looks like Parkinson’s, and as her family reels from the loss, we realize there is something far more sinister going on here.

You see, the Parkers are cannibals. And not in a Texas Chainsaw hack-em-up sort of way. No, it’s because as father Frank Parker (Bill Sage) keeps telling his daughters, God made them that way. That’s a lot more scary than Leatherface!

Director Jim Mickle’s third film has a lot more on its mind than grotesque theater. Don’t get me wrong: We Are What We Are definitely gets gross, especially during the last act (it has something to do with a human stew) and shocking epilogue.

But until that final inevitable horrifying moment, the movie unfold elegantly with gorgeous widescreen photography, a foreboding atmosphere, and characters that are rooted in reality. It’s this approach that makes the finale that much more horrifying.

It’s not hard to imagine this film being a harsh critique of organized religions and the terrifying things done in the name of God. Frank Parker believes what he believes, and knows that he and his brood are different from the local townsfolk. A ritual is a ritual, and if it happens to involve the disappearance of some young teenager, well hey, talk to the Big Guy, buddy.

Michael Parks, last seen in Kevin Smith’s incendiary Red State as a maniacal preacher, find a nice book end in the role of Doc, a homespun local man who comes upon an interesting bone that washes up after the storm. is it a dog, some sort of other animal, or is it human? More disturbingly, could it be a bone from his missing daughter? Doc may not be a tough guy, but he will figure this one out.

Much has been made of the onscreen violence. The conclusion has been debated, argued about, and has even prompted walk-outs and nausea at screenings. This is not hyperbole. The scene is gross. And in the moment, there’s nothing more you’d rather do then look away and think of puppies.

But thematically, the moment is vital, as it brings its ideas around full circle. The movie asks: are the teenage girls really cannibals, or are they just raised that way? It’s nature vs. nurture, but with human meat.

The final glorious act is visceral and disgusting, but in a good way. And in the end, a few of those hard questions inch closer to an answer.

Jim Mickle is a director to watch.

— DENNIS WILLIS

 

Author: Dennis Willis

Dennis Willis is an award-winning producer, TV host, producer, director, editor (he preferred Avid until a torrid affair with Adobe Premiere, and the rest is history), author and film critic (print and radio). Dennis produced and hosted the TV programs Reel Life, FilmTrip, Soundwaves (1983-2008) and produces the annual Soundwaves Xmas program. He is currently the film critic on KGO Radio in San Francisco, and a member of both the San Francisco Film Critics Circle and the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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