The Parkers, a reclusive family who follow ancient customs, find their secret existence threatened as a torrential downpour moves into their area, forcing daughters Iris and Rose to assume responsibilities beyond those of a typical family.
A seemingly wholesome and benevolent family, the Parkers have always kept to themselves, and for good reason. Behind closed doors, patriarch Frank rules his family with a rigorous fervor, determined to keep his ancestral customs intact at any cost. As a torrential rainstorm moves into the area, tragedy strikes and his daughters Iris and Rose are forced to assume responsibilities that extend beyond those of a typical family. As the unrelenting downpour continues to flood their small town, the local authorities begin to uncover clues that bring them closer to the secret that the Parkers have held closely for so many years.
We Are What We Are is an English language remake of the Spanish film
Somos Lo Que Hay. The word remake is sometimes looked upon as a dirty
word amongst film geeks. Trepidation regarding the quality of remakes
will always exist, it's only natural.
Both films are entirely different from one another despite sharing the
same premise. Somos Lo Que Hay was (in my opinion) a pessimistic film
rife with social commentary in regards to Capitalism and Poverty. We
Are What We Are deliberately ignores that commentary and instead
focuses in on the religious fundamentalism of the ritualistic family as
its central theme. We Are What We Are is not just a mere shot for shot
remake; it's a different beast all together.
Director and Co-Screenwriter Jim Mickle lift's the premise of the
original film and relocates it from the Inner City of Mexico to the
back end of Sleepy Rural Southern America. The film follows the
reclusive Parker family and the bizarre rituals they practice.
It all begins when the Matriarch of the family unexpectedly passes
away. Devastated and unable to cope with the sudden loss, the Patriarch
(Bill Sage) of the family regresses into an emotional collapse. Leaving
his two teenage daughters, Iris (Ambyr Childers) and Rose (Julia
Garner), to ponder over who will step up to the plate and continue the
cannibalistic rituals that the family practice every other Sunday.
The Parker's do what they do under the guise of believing that it is a
penance that must be performed in order to be saved in the eyes of the
lord. They follow the writings of a diary kept by an ancient patriot
relative who suffered through a harsh winter with very little in the
way of food supplies, thus resorting to cannibalism out of desperation.
They treat this diary as if it were their equivalent of the holy words
of scripture. Thus the diary has been passed down from generation to
generation and is seen as a rite of passage into adulthood in this
case the eldest daughter Rose is next in line to inherit its
The family is kept under the strict ruling hand of the Patriarch --
played with unnerving intimidation by Bill Sage. He is a domineering
force as he preaches his beliefs and traditions to the family in order
to keep them together and to push forward with the annual ritual. Much
like the film as a whole, he has a simmering rage boiling underneath
his controlled exterior demeanor that threatens to erupt at any given
moment; making him all the more frightening and intimidating.
His dominance makes life all the more difficult for his two teenage
daughters who, with the recent death of their mother, are starting to
question the ritualistic ways of their existence. They yearn for
something else in life and struggle to come to grips with what it is
they are. Much like the original film, denial plays an important factor
for the siblings as it does for almost everyone else in the film be
it the savages or even the town sheriff denying suspicious foul play in
his town. The siblings hide in denial of facing who they truly are
until they are forced by cruel fate to face the beast that resides
Ambyr Childers and Julia Garner are excellent finds for these roles as
they both deliver subdued and nuanced performances. They fit the mold
perfectly as the somewhat reclusive children who can't quite fit in
with the outside world. They have the frail and pale physical
complexity that compliments the dreary and rain soaked atmospheric mood
that the film radiates.
While the family prepare for their next ritual, a flood hits the sleepy
town washing up evidence of human remains to the surface. This attracts
the curiosity of the local town Doctor, played by the always wonderful
Michael Parks, who is still haunted by the mysterious disappearance of
his daughter. Parks serves as a replacement to the bumbling and fame
hungry detectives from the original film. This is actually a wise
decision as Parks bring a measure of soul and humanity to the grisly
proceedings and is a more then suitable change.
Much like its spiritual predecessor, it isn't a film that relies on an
overabundance of plot turns or 'gotcha' moments. It's a very slow and
deliberately paced film spanning over the course of four days. This is
reflected with its use of stilted yet beautifully composed
cinematography made up of a dreary, rain-soaked and moody palette of
rustic greys. It shows a surprising amount of restraint and has
patience in taking its time building its tension whilst shining the
spotlight on its characters and themes.
It's a very unassuming film where the tension is always simmering
underneath just waiting to erupt. When it erupts, it grabs you by the
throat unexpectedly and bites in hard. Unlike most Cannibal films that
focus on gore for gore hound sake, it keeps the gruesome stuff to a
minimum. But it is all the more effective for doing so. It is most
surprising as the norm for most American remakes is to usually dial the
volume way up to eleven. Yet this one is surprisingly restrained, maybe
even more so than the original.
As far as remakes go, We Are What We Are is a fascinating case study of
a remake done rather well.There is no familiarity between both the
movies, despite a few casual sly nods of referencing here and there to
the original film, it stands apart as a drastically different film that
has something else on its mind and as is, it does stand very well next
to its original counterpart. 7/10