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We Are What We Are (2013)

EOne Entertainment
DVD Released: 1/7/2014

All Ratings out of

Movie:
1/2
Video:

Audio:

Extras:
1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/9/2014

Subtlety is a commodity which seems to be less and less valued in our culture these days, especially in entertainment. While some would argue that movies and TV have gotten smarter and more sophisticated in recent years, things continue to be loud, obvious, and over-explained. Very few seem willing to take the time to make anything that is quiet and restrained, allowing the viewer to take it all in and read between the lines. There's nothing inherently wrong with entertainment aiming for the lowest common denominator, but sometimes a story must be allowed to play at its own pace, allowing the details to fit together like a puzzle. We Are What We Are tackles a very taboo subject, but in a way which is quiet and devious.

We Are What We Are tells the story of the Parker family, who live in a house on the outskirts of town, where father, Frank (Bill Sage), runs a trailer park and repairs watches. When Emma Parker (Kassie DePaiva) dies suddenly on a trip to the store, their daughters, Iris (Ambyr Childers) and Rose (Julie Garner), most step up to running the household and looking after their little brother, Rory (Jack Gore). The Parker's live in a somewhat antiquated manner, with the girls being very subservient to Frank, who is often distant and moody. While this is going on, torrential rains have soaked the area, causing flooding. Dr. Barrow (Michael Parks) finds what appears to be a human bone along a creek and takes it to the police for investigation. These rains have not only uncovered a bone, but they threaten to expose the bizarre secret which the Parkers are hiding.

(When I would read about We Are What We Are, I would see a "twist" mentioned, but I would also see the Parker's secret revealed. I get the feeling that most who have looked into this film know the "secret", so I'm going to write about it here. If you don't want that spoiled, read with caution.)

We Are What We Are is interesting for what it is and what it isn't. The story is essentially a cleaned up version of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, complete with the old, white house. However, the Parkers are much more sophisticated than the Sawyers. They shop at the store, Iris and Rose go to school, and Frank runs a legitimate business. But, one gets the feeling that the townsfolk steer clear of this family. There is certainly a weird dynamic at play here between Frank and the girls, and their garb and the use of candles due to the storm, gives one the feeling that the story is taking place in the 19th Century. The movie also plays out like a mystery of sorts, as we wait to hear exactly what is going on with the Parkers. Director Jim Mickle lays out some clues for us, and most will realize that the family has a bad habit of eating people.

What We Are What We Are isn't is over the top. Mickle and Writer Jim Damici, adapting the original 2010 film Somo lo que hay, have crafted a slow, deliberate film which peels back one layer after layer of just how loopy the Parkers are. However, for most of its running time, the film is very restrained. There is very little graphic violence here, save for the finale. Instead, Mickle has focused on the seemingly normal act of eating, and made it come across as disgusting. As for the story, the movie never hits us over the head with anything. No one ever comes out and says, "We're cannibals and we eat people." And yet, this isn't one of those overly artsy films where nothing makes sense and doesn't fit. Only the final scene here will be left up to interpretation by some viewers.

I haven't seen the original movie, but I can tell you that I was impressed with We Are What We Are. It takes some familiar elements (the weird family, the person playing detective) and puts them into an interesting story. The film is very well-shot and edited, and it never looks like a low-budget project. The acting is top-notch as well, with Sage (who favors Jeff Fahey) commanding the screen and oozing creepiness. Those who like their horror a little more sophisticated, but aren't necessarily squeamish will get a kick out of We Are What We Are.

We Are What We Are has a pretty active street bazaar for a Monday afternoon on DVD courtesy of EOne Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing only very fine grain at times and no defects from the source materials. Some shots are a little dark, but otherwise the light balance is fine. Mickle has given the film a monochromatic look, so we only get a few notable color, but they look alright. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track makes great use of the constant rain, which trickles in from the front and rear speakers. The stereo effects show good separation and there are a few scenes where we get well-place, specific sounds coming from the rear. Thunder rumbles in the subwoofer.

The We Are What We Are DVD contains a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Jim Mickle, Writer Jim Damici, Julia Garner, Bill Sage, and Cinematographer Ryan Samul. "An Acquired Taste: The Making of We Are What We Are" (55 minutes) is simply a very long reel of on-set "fly on the wall" footage showing many, many scenes being shot. We get a flavor for what the atmosphere was like on location and we see the various actors and crew members interacting. There are a few comments to the camera here, but otherwise we are simply observers. We get "Interviews" (16 minutes) with Mickle, Sage, Garner, who describe the making of the film, the characters, and the story. The final extra is a THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long