Directed by Jim Mickle
On day two of Sundance we have the new flick from Memento Films and Uncorked Productions – the remake of the 2010 Mexican film of the same name, We Are What We Are, directed by Jim Mickle. Like Mulberry Street and Stake Land before it, the movie was co-written by Nick Damici and Mickle. Together, their more mature approach to this family crisis plays out much differently than Jorge Michel Grau’s original work.
The story is centered on the Parkers, a very private family with a deep dark secret. The father, Frank (Bill Sage), is in complete control of all things in his clan and he does all he can do to keep the family’s rituals alive no matter what the cost. However, due in part to a rainstorm, clues begin to surface that could eventually reveal these ancient secrets that the family has held sacred for so long.
The story kicks off on a Friday, and we find the mother of the family at the local hardware store buying some items that her family needs to weather the storm that is looming upon them. While leaving the store, our matriarch begins to convulse, falls backward, hitting her head on a pipe, falls into a ditch and drowns. A short time later the family is notified. Frank is devastated and sends his two teenage daughters, Iris (Ambyr Childers) and Rose (Julia Garner), to identify their mother’s body while he stays and cares for their younger brother, Rory (Jack Gore). With her mother’s death, Iris knows that being the eldest daughter, it is now her responsibility to provide the meat for the family’s Lamb’s Day feast in 2 days time on Sunday.
For those who have viewed the original, this may all sound familiar despite a couple of differences here and there. That is, however, where the possible similarities end. The torrential storm has caused much flooding. While walking his dog, the local doctor, Doc Barrow (Michael Parks), finds something that piques his interest. This find leads him to start asking questions that will cause more turmoil to the already grieving Parker family.
Mickle’s re-imagining is very well shot with excellent cinematography but becomes a somewhat tedious watch as the story gets into the second act. Iris and Rose were not nearly as devastated as you would expect from the loss of their mother, making it a bit difficult to sympathize with their turmoil over the events that take place to prepare the feast to come. Including back story from many years past, although a nice addition, felt like carbon copies of scenes from a couple Donner party films over the last two years. Lastly, the inclusion of the extremely short romance between Iris and Deputy Anders (Wyatt Russell) was inconsequential and unnecessary to the plot.
These few shortcomings, however, do not take away from the fact that in the end Mickle does a great job of creating a successful remake unlike many that have tried in recent times. Strong portrayals, especially that of Julia Garner as the younger sister and Kelly McGillis’ supporting role of as Marge, helped hold this story together, making it a very nice entry into the genre.
We Are What We Are is definitely one of those love it or hate it kind of pictures that we see come across our screen now and again. Personally I feel that this is the best I have viewed by the Mickle/Damici team, and I certainly hope to see more from them in the future. If you saw the original, then by all means you should see this, if for nothing else than to see the nearly opposite perspective. For those that have not seen the original, it’s worth a shot on a rainy night nonetheless.
3 1/2 out of 5