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A seemingly wholesome and benevolent family, the Parkers have always kept to themselves, and for good reason. Behind closed doors, patriarch Frank rules his family with a rigorous fervor, determined to keep his ancestral customs intact at any cost. As a torrential rainstorm moves into the area, tragedy strikes and his daughters Iris and Rose are forced to assume responsibilities that extend beyond those of a typical family. As the unrelenting downpour continues to flood their small town, the local authorities begin to uncover clues that bring them closer to the secret that the Parkers have held closely for so many years. Written by
A Horror/Drama with Strong Performances and a Great Visual Style
In my recent horror movie craving, I came across WE ARE WHAT WE ARE after seeing a few brief mentions of it when it premiered at Cannes in 2013. I'd forgotten all about it until I saw it sitting on the shelf at my local department store and couldn't remember what it was that had interested me in it in the first place, but I figured I'd give it a go. I refreshed myself on the premise and settled in for the movie, soon finding myself pleasantly surprised. It was nothing like I expected, and this turned out both good and bad. But first, a little information about the premise: the film is a remake of a 2010 Mexican horror film that I was unfamiliar with, and it follows a family known as the Parkers. Living in a small town somewhere in America, the Parkers generally keep to themselves. Their neighbors seem to know very little about them but view them as a pleasant little family. As a massive storm batters the town, the family matriarch dies and the father, Frank (Bill Sage), is left to care for three children: Iris (Ambyr Childs), Rose (Julia Garner), and young Rory. Their mother's death couldn't have happened at a worse time, as the family is approaching time for one of their more unusual traditions: Lamb's Day. As the family's disturbing secrets are revealed, the town's doctor (Michael Parks) finds a clue that might lead to information on his daughter's disappearance and his investigation leads him a little to close to the Parker's family tradition.
WE ARE WHAT WE ARE is a tough call. There are a lot of elements I liked but there was a bit that put me off. For starters, the pacing is nothing like what I expected. I don't know exactly what I thought the movie was going to be, but I sure didn't believe it to be a slow-burning, high-tension horror piece. In what I expect is a major complaint from others, the movie is very slowly paced. There are a lot of long shots seemingly used to highlight the film's dark atmosphere. It's a very high contrast film with very little actual color. There should be no complaints about the film's cinematography from Ryan Samul; if anything in the movie is pulled off near perfectly, it's the moody lighting and muted colors that give the movie a very defined style. So I can understand why so much effort was made to utilize it, but even the dialogue is delivered in such a way to make the movie feel longer than it is. There are a lot of quiet moments and, when anyone speaks, it's generally in hush tones. Everyone here is muttering as if every word spilling from their mouths is a dark secret (though I guess some of it is). It all results in a very dreary movie and it's hard to get excited about something so depressing. Actually, that's probably the perfect way to describe the feel of WE ARE WHAT WE ARE: depressing.
But that doesn't mean it's not a good movie, even if it does leave you feeling sort of drained by the end. The performances in the movie are actually really, really good. The film's four main stars Sage, Childers, Garner, and Parks are great. Frank Parker (Sage) is a man set in his ways. Lamb's Day is a tradition that's been carried out in his family for generations and he will continue to abide. He never once questions his actions or what he is putting his family through. As far as he's concerned, this is God's will. The sisters, Iris and Rose, realize that what their doing is monstrous. Their minds are a little more modern and they recognize exactly what they're doing and how wrong it is. But Iris, the eldest daughter, has the responsibility to see it through and she agrees to continue to appease her father while quietly hoping she'll be gone before the next time she's called upon to perform her duties. Rose, on the other hand, wants out and she wants out now. She wants nothing to do with it and, more importantly, she wants to save her little brother from falling into their father's insane beliefs. Michael Parks as Doc Barrow is a nice addition as well. I've never really seen him in such an expanded role and a film as gloomy as this seems perfect for his tense, deliberate line delivery.
The performances and the cinematography are so well done that it helps forgive the film's snail pacing. Then there's a bizarre climactic final sequence to close the movie that goes completely against all the mood and atmosphere building of the previous hour and a half to blast the audience with some shock value that doesn't quite sit right within the film. I can sort of see what the filmmakers were going for but that doesn't stop it from coming across a little too amusingly, especially in execution. I won't spoil it here but I would recommend giving WE ARE WHAT WE ARE a viewing to find out for yourself. It's an engaging horror/drama with a strong cast and a great sense of style that overcomes it's few flaws, and it'd work well as entertainment for a quiet night rental.
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