We Are What We Are Movie Review
Do you want fries with that? Stew with a dash of human flesh is the order for We Are What We Are, a subtle yet compelling thriller that chomps its way to a mouthwatering climax that may or may not satisfy your cravings, depending on whether you like your meat rare or well done.
The movie follows the Parkers, a reclusive family that has carried on a multi-generational tradition, because that's what traditions are for. Following the unexpected death of his wife, patriarch Frank (Bill Sage) falls into a maddening depression, exasperated by an unexplained illness. His teenage daughters, played by Julia Garner and Ambyr Childers, dread the coming feast, not because it could put on a few pounds but because with mom gone, the special duties required by the feast fall upon them.
First World problems.
Director Jim Mickle and writer Nick Damici bring the story to life with their most complete picture yet (they have a taste for human-eating tales, having previously conspired on the vampire thriller Stake Land and cannibal/monster movie Mulberry Street). The movie looks terrific, but it is the nuanced storytelling approach that makes We Are What We Are so good. You sort of know what the movie is about, but Mickle and Damici keep the details a mystery, a mere suspicion that lingers over time.
The cast carries the film as well. Garner and Childers play their parts well; they are the protagonists and yet they are not innocent. How far will they take things? It's unclear, for much of the movie. But it is Sage who powers the movie; he is a man driven by tradition and family, but he is also the villain, a figure his girls fear so much they are willing to do anything to avoid his wrath. Sage's Frank won't go down as the most memorable of bad guys, but in the moment his energy, his bursts of rage and the steady threat that he will do something unkosher is unrivaled.
The film's climax is a tasty treat that comes from nowhere. Whether it entirely makes sense is another matter - what occurs doesn't necessarily fall in line with what has been established throughout the film - but the conclusion is fun, brutal and shocking.
As good as it We Are What We Are, it does have a few flaws. Doc Barrows (Michael Parks) makes some stupid decisions in line with horror cliches that stand at contrast to the rest of the movie, and other, more interesting supporting characters (played by Jack Gore and Kelly McGillis) are underutilized. Still, these flaws are minor.
We Are What We Are is a remake of a 2010 Mexican film called Somos lo que hay, but apparently the similarities end at the title and a dose of cannibalism. The result is a refreshing, engaging and savory horror-drama that stands among the year's best. Yes, I'll have fries with that.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.