Horror remakes are usually a mixed bag, with sadly so many of them being a complete waste of time. Having not actually seen the original We Are What We Are (Somos lo que hay), there was no expectations going into this 2013 version. Hearing that this isn’t so much of a remake but more of a companion piece was an interesting description, and it does make me interested to see the original Mexican film. With no expectations of this film and no idea what it was actually about was a good thing, I want films to surprise me and take me for a ride with nothing to cloud me.
We Are What We Are takes place in a small town, where in the opening a strange woman (Kassie DePaiva) walks into a store, buys a few things, walks out in the rain and suddenly collapses and hits her head and drowns. We find out she is the matriarch of the Parker family, consisting of father Frank (Bill Sage), daughters Iris (Ambyr Childers) and Rose (Julia Garner) and little boy Rory (Jack Gore). The family seem quite old fashioned and the death of their mother hits them all very hard. Something is certainly up with this family, and their ways, and the in coming storm will reveal a very shocking family secret and tradition.
This is a slow burn film, taking the time to set up the Parker family and this remote location they live in. Their support comes from owning area that people rent and live on, and they seem to stick mostly to themselves. The death within the family has changed the dynamic and with Iris being told she is in charge, things start to change. She must do what her mother was doing, which we find out is quite disturbing and can understand her hesitation. This acts as a bit of a coming of age for the two girls, taking on a more adult role within the family. It deals with coming to terms with growing up and responsibility and whether your family bonds can overcome your own feelings.
The family secret and tradition isn’t something that acts as a twist or a shock, but it is kind of a spoiler so I wont reveal it here. The history of it though is shown through flashbacks via the way of reading a diary passed down to the girls. In a way the film does act as a metaphor for the backwoods folk and their beliefs and religion, and whether they do have any place in this modern world. There isn’t much modern about the Parker’s or how they live, their clothes look 1900th century too for the most part. It also deals with how law enforcement deals with the missing, and in such a small town with a big disastrous storm, people seem to be on the backburner.
The performances all round are execptional, especially from Bill Sage as the patriarch of the Parkers. He seemed like the perfect fit for the role, and he was quite a joy to watch. The girls did such a great job, with material that often got very disturbing, major kudos to how well they handled themselves. Michael Parks as the Doctor who begins to suspect something is up with the family is great, he always delivers the goods and he was very welcome here. I will never complain about having Wyatt Russell in a film, he’s a solid actor and he was fine here. Kelly McGillis as the neighbour Marge was fine, she’s been really enjoyable recently, but her character felt tacked on.
We Are What We Are lives up to that title, it tells a very strange tale with meanings that run deep. Can you truly escape who you are and from your family? What will win out in the end? It certainly provides an answer in a very unique way. This is a really well made and good looking film, it wont be for everyone but it is hard not to sing its praises and highly recommend it.