We Are What We Are (2013)
Directed by Jim Mickle
Why can’t Michael Parks be in every movie? Why isn’t he in every movie? Has there ever been a movie featuring Michael Parks that isn’t immediately made better because of his inclusion? Well, We Are What We Are is another example that Michael Parks can do no wrong, but Jim Mickle’s remake (really, in name and initial setup only) of Somos lo Que Hay from director Jorge Michel Grau doesn’t have Parks as the center of attention, unfortunately. Instead, in this version, the genders are reversed as two sisters and their brother are under the control of their increasingly crazed father who forces them to follow the family custom of flesh-eating when they’d probably prefer to just order out.
We Are What We Are is a patriarchal horror tale about lineage and how religious constructs can wind up being bastardized into something that resembles a dinner table cult that consumes the flesh of men in order to gain enlightenment. From the beginning, Mr. Parker (Bill Sage) is not quite right in the head, coming to the head of the table every night to eat more stew and grow a little more insane. The kids, Iris (Ambyr Childers), Rose (Julie Garner) and little Rory (Jack Gore), are entirely isolated up in the Catskills and the oldest, Iris, is tasked with the responsibility of carrying on the family’s ways. Reluctantly, they all go along until suspicion from the outside world comes barreling down on them like the torrential rainstorm banging on their door.
Even though the focus is on the children and essentially told through their eyes, it’s Bill Sage as Frank Parker that provides a formidable presence on screen, saving the film from being too bogged down in its slow, deliberate (ok, boring) pacing throughout most of the running time. Besides Sage’s great work here, the kids are too timid and frightened of him to really be all that interesting. Mickle seems to hold too high a regard for the Parker family in the early goings and too much confidence that their small dining room and already established family dynamic is enough to carry an entire movie.
But wait! Remember when I mentioned Michael Parks? Luckily, Parks swoops in and saves the film at the end. He plays Doc Barrow, a sullen man who begins to believe that the Parkers might have something to do with the disappearance of his daughter. He has the line of the movie, no doubt, and the encounter and subsequent disagreement between Mr. Parker and the Doc is a classic scene that exhibits the stillness of a western and the downright dread felt in the tensest moments in horror.
The ending saves We Are What We Are from becoming completely uneventful and forgetful, and proves that if the payoff is great than the build-up, however dull, it can still be worth sitting through. Up to that point, however, the performances, direction, and plot developments are not enough to warrant praise. Mickle is definitely picking up momentum and is a director to watch in horror, to be certain, but the collection of Mulberry Street, Stake Land and now We Are What We Are are not enough to justify his growing reputation.
2 1/2 out of 5