It’s probably a good thing that I didn’t see the original “We Are What We Are” before Jim Mickle’s remake. I typically find time to pick up the original article, but time didn’t allow the convenience, so Jim Mickle’s remake of the Mexican horror film is what I had to base my entire opinion on. And that’s something of an advantage, since on its own it’s a fairly mediocre but interesting tale about cannibalism of the body, and the eternal cannibalism of the family unit.
“We Are What We Are” is basically a more refined and high falutin’ version of “Spider Baby” wherein we’re exposed to a small family that’s found their source of consumption has ruined their lives. Patriarch Bill struggles to keep his family together after the death of their mother, and he insists on maintaining the legacy of their clan that involves kidnapping and eating human beings. But the Parker family has found themselves at odds with one another as they begin to change and grow apart. With their matriarch now dead, the daughters Rose and Iris begin to have a crises of conscience involving their lifestyle, and gradually decide that they want to change their fates. Even as the notion of a terminal brain disease creeps up on every single one of them.
What becomes plainly apparent is the incestuous overtones that bond the Parkers, but also threaten to tear them down all at once. Older sister Iris has garnered the attention of a local deputy investigating the disappearances of people around the town with an obsessed officer (Michael Parks) which makes younger sister Rose uneasy and incensed with jealousy. Meanwhile Rose struggles with her jealousy, and finds solace in her father Frank, who also seems fairly threatened by the young deputy. Rose also begins to find the appeal of eating human beings fairly grotesque, especially when she and Iris are forced to prepare a meal for ailing father Frank. “We Are What We Are” is fairly simplistic and incredibly slow paced from the get go that doesn’t do much except allow for many disturbing sub-plots to be propped up but never quite resolved.
Michael Parks is very good as Doc Barrow, a man whose daughter disappeared around the time the Parkers moved in to his town, and is convinced she’s connected to their presence. When a massive storm hits the town, the graveyard containing many of the remains of past victims begins seeping in through the local lake, threatening to reveal the Parkers’ habits once and for all. Much of that is eerie and tense, but never sealed up to allow for a confrontation that’s satisfying. There’s even a sub-plot with a kindly neighbor who begins taking over for the Parkers’ mom, helping the children and slowly realizing their horrific habits behind closed doors. It’s another sub-plot abruptly ended and never quite given a pay off. That said, “We Are What We Are” does succeed in the larger scheme of the central premise as father Bill resorts to great measures to ensure the solidity of his family unit.
This ends in an incredibly gruesome and disturbing finale that works as an emotional insight in to our characters, and how they’ll just keep eating their own tail until there’s no one left in the brood. “We Are What We Are” works as a horror drama for the cannibal sub-genre that’s barely mediocre but at least worth the watch for the finale, alone. Featured on the DVD is the hour long in depth look in to “We Are What We Are” entitled “An Acquired Taste” that will satiate fans interested in behind the scenes footage, interviews and a look at how the remake was conceived. There are interviews with director Jim Mickle, Bill Sage, and co-star Julia Garner, and the original theatrical trailer. Finally, there’s an audio commentary with director Jim Mickle and stars Nick Damici, Julia Garner, Bill Sage, and Ryan Samul.