We Are What We Are
Directed by Jim Mickle. Starring Bill Sage, Ambyr Childers, Julia Garner, Kassie DePaiva, Jack Gore, Kelly McGillis, Michael Parks, Wyatt Russell. (2013, R, 105 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Oct. 11, 2013
An American remake of Jorge Michel Grau's 2010 Mexican shocker, this Sundance and Fantastic Fest fan favorite is undeniably creepy stuff that’s been given a dusty, American Gothic anti-sheen courtesy of cinematographer Ryan Samul. It's a horror film all right, but the true nature of the awfulness that will eventually arrive, full force, is merely hinted at early on, making the gory denouement all the more disturbing when it finally arrives.
The Parker family resides on a dreary, heavily forested track somewhere in upstate New York. You can tell straight away there's something amiss with father Frank (Sage), who shuns electricity in the rambling manse. When his wife Emma (DePaiva) falls ill while purchasing shady-looking home implements (rope, duct tape, shears), the bearded backwoodsman tells daughters Rose (Garner) and Iris (Childers), along with pre-adolescent son Jack (Gore), that it's up to them to "continue God's will." But whose, exactly, is that will, and what sort of Old Testament hellion has Frank misinterpreted out of the scriptures? That wounded, weeping sound emanating from the old shed out back gives off an intuitive frisson.
Director Mickle (Stake Land) and co-writer Nick Damici's story is as much about the strangling bonds of family fealty as it is an outright barrage of sideshow shocks. I hesitate to give much more away, but suffice it to say that the Parker clan is a more natural expression of the family’s traditional imperative than anything Tobe Hooper ever conceived.
The cast is uniformly excellent – including an extended cameo by Top Gun’s Kelly McGillis, QT regular Michael Parks, and genre director Larry Fessenden – and is buoyed by a particularly unobtrusive yet unsettling score from Jeff Grace and Darren Morris. I'd nominate We Are What We Are as the best "family" film of the year thus far, but I'd prefer not to be hung in effigy.