We Are What We Are
dir Jim Mickle
scr Nick Damici, Jim Mickle
prd Rodrigo Bellott, Andrew Corkin, Nicholas Shumaker, Jack Turner
with Bill Sage, Ambyr Childers, Julia Garner, Wyatt Russell, Kelly McGillis, Michael Parks, Jack Gore, Nick Damici, Annemarie Lawless, Traci Hovel, Nat DeWolf, Vonia Arslanian
release US 27.Sep.13, UK 28.Feb.14
13/US 1h45
We Are What We Are
Keep an eye out: Garner and Childers

sage russell mcgillis
fright fest

See also:
Somos Los Que Hay (2010)
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We Are What We Are Director-cowriter Mickle wastes no time in obliterating thoughts of Mexican filmmaker Jorge Michel Grau's 2010 original. Set in small-town America, this remake only uses the bare bones of the premise to spin a very different tale about a one-family cult that eats its victims. It's a fiercely well-made film, even if it falls into a gap between arthouse and horror audiences.

When her mother dies, Iris (Childers) takes charge of the Parker family ritual, passed down for nearly 240 years. But she struggles to comply, even at the insistence of her dad Frank (Sage) and younger siblings Rose and Rory (Garner and Gore). Frankly, she's more interested in cute Deputy Anders (Russell), who's blithely investigating human remains found down-river from the Parker farm. Ahem! And Frank is getting nervous because their neighbour Marge (McGillis), Doc Barrow (Parks) and Sheriff Meeks (Damici) are asking too many questions.

For the Parkers, the main event is their Lambs Day feast of human stew. "It's what we do," they remind themselves. And as the day approaches, Mickle builds a creepy atmosphere that mixes tender emotion with menacing darkness. There are hints and suggestions in every scene, from the missing-people posters that decorate the town to ominous sounds in the Parker's shed to a secret book outlining the family history.

Childers and Garner are particularly good in the focal roles, as Rose resents Iris both for being in charge now and for having those lusty feelings. Sage invests his role with barely suppressed fury, while the supporting cast is terrific at playing nice people who quietly suspect something isn't quite right here but can't make sense of the mounting evidence. Everyone is eerily subdued, and even their explosions of emotion feel oddly muted and controlled.

Intriguingly, Mickle also manages to capture a sense of economic desperation, echoing films like Winter's Bone. But the relentlessly downbeat approach leaves the film feeling very gloomy. There are blackly hilarious touches along the way (such as when Marge gives the family a veggie lasagne for dinner), as well as sudden moments of nastiness. So if it's far too arty and grim for mainstream horror fans, arthouse cinema lovers who like to be scared will love it.

cert 18 themes, language, strong violence, sexuality 30.Jan.14

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