Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Review: We Are What We Are

Copyright: Entertainment One
The Parkers, an isolated family that lives on the edge of town, loose one of its members in a random accident. She leaves behind her husband, two teenage daughters and a small son. The father Frank, devastated and driven by his religious fervor, determined to go on. Without their mother, the eldest daughter Rose becomes tasked with the preserving the generation old family rituals, in spite of the fact that she knows that these involve a dug up cave with a prison cell beneath their house.

We Are What We Are avoids several major potential problem points. First and most obvious is that it’s not a hillbilly horror. It depicts a family of murderers, but they are not raging lunatics or inbred mutated monsters. Frank, impressively played by Bill Sage, is a caring father, and at the same time a ruthless ruler who reigns over his children. He does what he thinks he has to do, torn by it on many levels, but it still doesn't make him stop. His daughters are even more “normal” in the sense that they constantly question their actions. But the death of their mother denies them the an observer role and forces them to become an active participants in the process, one way or the other. I found this approach much more appealing than showing a grope of senseless banjo playing freaks bent on killing spree.

The other point is the unraveling of the plot from the opposing perspective. Michael Parks play a character named Doc Barrow, the local coroner who’s daughter went missing a few year back. He is the main antagonist to Frank’s endeavors and the only person who has any misgivings about a string of disappearances that have plagued the area in the last decades. Parks doesn’t depict Doc as an improvised police officer or a hesitant hero. Instead, he is only a father that wants to know what happened to his child.

This movie is a remake of a Mexican film by the same name. Director Jim Mickle recognized that he had a solid script, so he didn’t go for flashy cinematography. The camera in the film looks composed and gentle, using the most from the nature present in the lives of the Parker family, especially the rains and the flooding that coincide with the events in the movie. In one brilliant scene, Frank, trying to subdue his rage, ventures in the forest, only to discover that a small creek behind their house is full of bones he buried over the years. Here, Mickle combines the gentle nature of the creek in the evening hours, human remains and Frank’s despair.

I found that for me the strongest point of the film is the inevitable confrontation. Everything builds up, like content in a chained pressure cooker, to that explosive sequence. Here, Mickle didn’t break the pattern of the movie so the culmination is hauntingly real, enraged and in some way, toned down. At the same time, I didn’t have a clue how will it all play out. Till the end, the director left all options, no matter how disturbed or warped, open. This is the moment I realized that this movie achieved it’s purpose. In the end, it’s fascinating and unsettling in equal measure. Neither of those factors is extravagantly high, and it can’t be said that We Are What We Are pushes the boundaries of independent horror genre, but it’s still a neat little horrific family movie.

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