It’s true, remakes aren’t all they are cracked up to be and aside from a select few, if they come from foreign source material they tend to turn out even worse. WE ARE WHAT WE ARE in both it’s English and Spanish versions have little to no mainstream appeal- one might argue if they have any appeal- but they both at the very least can be called interesting. In this case I don’t know that I would chalk being interesting up as a praise in the film’s quality.
The Parker’s are a peculiar family with peculiar tastes. They seem to follow the ancient wisdom or religion without question. Except that when their mother passes away the two Parker girls question every decision made by their family and hope to be normal like everyone else. Standing in their way is a grieving father that believes deeply in their traditions but through faults of his own their secret may not stay secret for long.
To say what the secret is might seem like a spoiler, but I don’t know how much of a secret it is. If you are aware of the original or have seen the posters for either the remake or the original and have seen the trailer there is no secret. Suffice to say, if the Parkers enter your local chili bake competition, you might just want to skip on seconds- or pass it up altogether. They are cannibals. Not in that they just walk around attacking people and eating them; their diet is based on ritual and is not to be taken lightly. And they don’t as WE ARE WHAT WE ARE IS dead serious with nary a chuckle to be found.
The film pits Frank Parker (Bill Sage) against his teenage daughters that suddenly decided one day, “eating people is like gross and stuff!” The performances by Sage, Ambyr Childers, Juia Garner and Michael Parks all are very good, but the film’s super grim tone doesn’t make for anything resembling entertainment. As a one time viewing it’s perfectly fine if a bit plodding and boring at times. There’s no real meat to the film leaving nothing for the viewer to chew on.
Ok, the half hearted puns are even making me a little sick, but in all honesty WE ARE WHAT WE ARE suffers from an abundance of horror cliches which in and of itself is weak considering this feels much more like a drama. The last act drifts into more of a thriller than the rest of film, but at that point it’s seems a little too late and isn’t done well enough to feel like it has any weight. One might say the finale lacks….bite- okay, now I’m done.
Director Jim Mickle does deliver quite a bit of style here, but his efforts do not eclipse the work he put in with his previous film, STAKE LAND. The script, the emotions and anything else of merit that might have been in the script fall somewhat flat here. The performances as decent as they are don’t quite sell dread, sadness or even anger- instead it simply serves exactly as my final impression is of the film in general. It passes the time, seems well enough while watching and when it’s over it is forgotten almost as quickly.
WE ARE WHAT WE ARE is what it is- stale entertainment presented with style, but as forgettable as it is stomach churning. The cannibilsm aspect isn’t even all that graphic, but there’s something physiologically gruesome in seeing a bowl if chili presented in front of children that you know is meant to contain human skin and meat- gave me heartburn just looking at it. Jim Mickle’s film isn’t quite the growth of a filmmaker I was hoping for, but there are glimpses of style and composition that still gove me hope for his future projects. WE ARE WHAT WE ARE in the end unfortunately left this viewer with an upset stomach.