Friday, March 27, 2015

We Are What We Are - Movie Review

We Are What We Are
Directed by Jim Mickle

Spoilers Ahead

In the history of the Hand of Jessee blog, I've reviewed slashers, thrillers, paranormal, found footage, '80s films, and B movies.  I felt it was only appropriate to review a film topic I'd never touched on before: cannibalism.  So, there's that.

We Are What We Are could've gone one of two ways.  It could've been an all out nasty, bloody, meaty, chunky, gorefest from start to finish or it could've been what it actually was, a slow burner, leaving more to the imagination than the eye. Until the end, that is.

Our film centers around the Parker family, Frank, Emma, Iris, Rose, and Rory.  The film begins with Emma Parker staring solemnly out the door on the last day of her life.  Upon walking home from the store, Emma sees a sign posting of a missing girl and immediately starts bleeding from the mouth, faints and dings her head on a pipe, falling in a shallow fountain and drowning.

We are then introduced to the rest of the Parker family, your typical portrait of a down-home, southern, conservative, plaited-hair, ruffled dress, and suspender wearing family.  We are made aware that the Parker family is on a very strict fast imposed by Frank, leaving his two daughters, Iris and Rose, and young son, Rory, starving.  We are treated to a pretty gross autopsy scene of the mother, Emma, where we learn that she had early onset Parkinson's.

As the film progresses, we learn that there has been a string of missing girls around town and bones have been turning up in the creek and nearby forests and trails.  Frank eerily spends a lot of time out in his shed, the sounds of whimpering and crying muffled underground.  Rory makes the mistake one day of going down in the basement and we get our sole jump scare of the movie when a hand shoots out from under a crack in a door, grasping at Rory.  He is caught by Frank and sternly reprimanded.

We later see Rose reading their family history from a diary that has been passed down generation to generation.  Apparently in previous eras, to survive their family had to rely on "eating meat."  We're not talking about cows or pigs here, people.  Iris frequently expresses that she wishes her family wasn't the way they were but Frank is sure to let them know that God chose them to be that way and if they are not, they get sick from "the poision" and die one by one.  Clearly, this dude is not firing on all cylinders.  Oh yeah and Frank has started to suffer from frequent nosebleeds and hand tremors.

The biggest point of tension in the movie comes when Iris, as the eldest daughter, is forced to replace her mother's role in preparing dinner.  She must go down to the basement with a scythe and after uttering, "It is with love that I do this.  God's will be done", kills one of the chained up women and then traces the meaty parts of her body with lipstick and drains her of blood.  Meanwhile, the nosy neighbor, Marge, hears the screams coming from below the Parker house.

We see the Parker family having a super meaty stew and are forced to endure close-ups of Frank's slurping and chewing and stew-stained beard for much longer than necessary.  All this time, the town sheriffs have been investigating the disappearances and start to put two and two together and suspect the Parkers.  The town doctor also sheds some light on the subject as we learn that Emma had not Parkinson's but Kuru Disease.  The main cause of Kuru Disease is dun, dun, dun cannibalism.  After catching Iris having sex with the youngest sheriff out in the woods, Frank decides it's time to punish his evil smite-worthy daughter and bring down the whole family by poisoning their stew with arsenic.  Well, let's just say the girls do not go down without a fight.

After an epic chase scene, a shoot-out with the doctor, Marge getting her throat slit, Frank convinces all the children to reconvene at the dinner table and finish their meal.  He lets them know, "All is forgiven in the eyes of the lord" and kisses them on the mouth.  Well, Rose decides to break bad and legit chomps into Frank's neck while Iris stabs him in the hand and starts eating his hand and arm.  We then basically have a five to ten minute scene of the girls eating their father to death and then driving out of town with their little brother and the family diary to live happily ever after (?) 

We Are What We Are had its fair share of pros and cons for me. 

- The cinematography was beautiful.  The film was awash with shades of blue, gray, beige, and other neutral colors.  There was not a single bright color in the film.  Everything was muted, pale, and rainy.  The nature shots of the town were fabulous, especially the shots of the forest and streams during rainstorms.
- In conjunction, the sounds are great as well.  We hear trickling water, crickets chirping, ticking clocks, but never jump scare shrieks, tension-building drums or violins, or harsh noises of any kind.
- The acting is done very well.  The girls, Iris and Rose, are very convincing in their roles as young intelligent girls wanting to break free but restrained under the harsh rule of their father.  Frank is a convincingly creepy and intimidating, soft-spoken, slow-moving dictator.

- I appreciate a good slow burn and build-up but We Are What We Are was almost a bit TOO slow-moving at certain points.  With about 45 minutes left to go in the movie, I started to lose interest and had to pause and come back to it.
- I would've liked them to explore a little more of the family history of how they became cannibals and why the tradition was so strongly upheld over time and also more about the Kuru Disease and its effects on the body.
- It's always a little gross to watch someone get eaten, but I guess that's a subjective con.

Anyway, overall I give We Are What We Are a positive rating for its unique take on the horror genre and its risk-taking.  This film serves as proof that you don't need to see every grimy gory detail in order to be left with an unnerved and unsettling feeling as you complete a film, impressed with its execution but never really wanting to watch it again.


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