We Are What We Are eschews many traditional horror tropes to create a tragic, cannibalistic family drama. Don’t expect conventional scares or classic villainy from this horror film, but do expect excellent Gothic-esque atmosphere, original storytelling, and superb acting with some gore thrown in.
After their mother drowns to death, sisters Rose (Julia Garner) and Iris Parker (Ambyr Childers) are left to care for their father and younger brother, Rory (Jack Gore). The Parker family descends from an ancient cannibalistic cult, and the father still zealously ascribes to these beliefs. Once a year, according to tradition, the family must dine on human flesh. This has led the Parker family to kill and eat over 20 people from the area town for years. A doctor, whose daughter is one of the victims, begins to catch on after he finds a human bone in his creek, downstream from the Parker’s.
We Are What We Are is curiously paced; it slowly draws out, then builds up to the grand ending. The terrifying world Iris and Rose inhabit is gradually but effectively introduced to the audience. We sense their resistance against their father’s cannibalistic commitment through subtle movements and private comments. Their eventual revolt is at once expected but satisfying. A dynamic that many horror films fail to properly execute. This storyline could be seen as an allegory of modern-day fundamentalist parents who force their beliefs on their children, which can cause similar resistance.
There is a weak spot in the film, which hampers the overall fluidity of the story. At one point, Rose begins reading a diary/bible that recounts the beginnings of their cult. It doesn’t add much to the story other than solidifying the founding of their “religion.” It would have been more effective, if more screen time was given to this angle, and some of the extraneous, strictly atmospheric scenes were removed.
We Are What We Are is a remake of a 2010 Mexican film of the same title. While I have not seen the original, from what I’ve read, I’m not missing much. After being so pleased with the remake, I don’t really have the desire to watch the apparently mediocre original. If you’re a horror fan, then We Are What We Are is definitely worth watching. Despite all of the unoriginal trite coming from the horror genre (that annoyingly flood Netflix), We Are What We Are uses a refreshing mixture of old-school atmospheric horror with modern day gore to create a unique piece of cinema.