Review: We Are What We Are / Cert: 15 / Director: Jim Mickle / Screenplay: Nick Damici, Jim Mickle / Starring: Bill Sage, Kelly McGillis, Ethan Suplee, Odeya Rush / Release Date: Out Now
In the past few years director Jim Mickle has risen to prominence with some low budget genre films including Mulberry Street and Stakeland. Although the idea and vision was there, Mickle was ill served by the budgetary limitations on both occasions. His new film is a remake of the 2010 Mexican cannibal drama We Are What We Are and it manages to be that rare beast, a remake better than the original, one that proves that Mickle is a great storyteller.
Flipping things around from the beginning of the original, this time the matriarch of the Parker family collapses and dies during a flood in small town Delaware, USA. This means that the father Frank (Sage) has to step up and take care of kids Alyce, Iris and Rory. Through excellently paced storytelling and the discoveries of the townsfolk, we learn that the Parker family are actually cannibals and have lived this way for centuries due to a diary handed down through the decades from colonial times which the Parkers use as their bible. When bone fragments wash downriver after the flood, suspicions deepen about the family, who then start to unravel.
We Are What We Are is Mickle’s most coherent and well-made film so far. It has an unfussy, classic style that recalls the work of directors like Frank Darabont and more recently Jeff Nichols. In another director's hands this could have been an exploitative gorefest, but Mickle only uses violence when it’s absolutely necessary, and when it does occur it's all the more shocking because of the wonderful pace and story structure. Cinematographer Ryan Samul gives the film a rich and deep palette that really adds to the atmosphere, and the film is different enough from the original to stand on its own, even if it does lose some of the social commentary by transposing the story from Mexico to the USA.
For a long time Bill Sage has been a minor supporting player, popping up in small roles in films like American Psycho and Mysterious Skin, but here he is given the key role as Frank Parker. It proves to be a major transformation for him and he is brilliant as a man who is slipping away both from himself and his family and is full of barely contained rage. Sage is backed up by wonderful young actors Odeya Rush, Ambyr Childers and Jack Gore as well as receiving reliable support from Michael Parks and Kelly McGillis.
We Are What We Are is a truly great piece of macabre Gothic Americana with superb performances and we can’t wait to see what Mickle does next.