"We Are What We Are" opens in the middle of a rainstorm. The camera follows a leaf and its journey through a storm as you see it fall off of a tree, land in water, float down a river, and tilt in puddles. A noticeably distressed woman named Emma Parker (Kassie Wesley DePaiva) stops by a meat market on her way home but her illness gets the best of her and she dies in the parking lot. Taking little time to grieve over Emma's death, her husband Frank (Bill Sage) informs his eldest daughter Iris (Ambyr Childers) that she's the woman of the household now and a new and unusual set of responsibilities is bestowed upon her. Cracking under the pressure of her new found obligations, Iris enlists the help of her younger sister Rose (Julia Garner) who seems to be the only Parker family member questioning the morality of their actions and worries about the safety of their youngest and most innocent sibling Rory (Jack Gore). As a flood threatens the secrets the Parkers have been hiding for generations, "We Are What We Are" establishes a completely different spin on providing for one's family.
Things are very peculiar in the Parker household as soon as you're introduced to them at the beginning of "We Are What We Are." You hear that the children are fasting and that Frank wouldn't let Emma see a doctor despite her condition and her severe headaches. Frank, a devout Christian, spends most of his time out in his shed and something so innocent is revealed to be much more sinister as the film drags on. With so many missing people in the town the Parker's live in, specifically young women, something wicked is definitely afoot. Doc Barrow's (Michael Parks) finding what looks like a human bone in the woods near the creek by the doctor's house is just barely scratching the surface of what's really transpiring.
Director Jim Mickle's ("Stake Land," "Mulberry Street") horror film is actually a remake of a Mexican film of the same name from 2010. Mickle's film has more than its fair share of flaws. "We Are What We Are" attempts to have a similar atmosphere to films like "Frailty" or "Prisoners," but there's little there to keep you captivated. Frank is so determined to keep his family doing things "their way," which typically involves committing unholy and sinful acts in the name of God. Everyone in the film is so soft spoken though, which makes every attempt at underlying tension in the film come off as massively lukewarm. This family is doing unspeakable things to other people, but you honestly just don't care.
Meanwhile, Iris and Rose continue to "do God's work," are completely torn because of their actions, and try to cope with it. As doing what's right for family rises to new heights, the kills are extremely enjoyable. The shovel scene may be the best in the film. The reasoning behind Frank's tremors, the flood, and the explanation behind the bones showing up near the creek is actually pretty solid and intelligent. But the final scene comes out of completely nowhere. The characters in the film seem to be going in one direction and then take a sharp turn in the opposite direction. If it's meant to be a huge twist, then it's a swing and a miss.
"We Are What We Are" may be built around something horrific with kills so sloppy that they're fantastic and a fairly satisfying explanation for everything, but it jerks the viewer around with awkward jumps in violence and its overbearing tepidness shouts over everything else in the film.
"We Are What We Are" began its theatrical run in Houston on Friday, October 18.