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We Are What We Are (2013)

TOMATOMETER

Average Rating: 7/10
Reviews Counted: 81
Fresh: 69
Rotten: 12

Critics Consensus: A compelling story cleverly told, We Are What We Are quenches horror buffs' thirst for gore while serving up serious-minded filmmaking and solid acting.

Average Rating: 7.1/10
Reviews Counted: 21
Fresh: 18
Rotten: 3

Critics Consensus: A compelling story cleverly told, We Are What We Are quenches horror buffs' thirst for gore while serving up serious-minded filmmaking and solid acting.

AUDIENCE SCORE

Average Rating: 3.1/5
User Ratings: 9,086

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Movie Info

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 … More

Rating:
R (for disturbing violence, bloody images, some sexuality, nudity and language)
Genre:
Drama , Horror , Mystery & Suspense
Directed By:
Written By:
Nick Damici , Jim Mickle
In Theaters:
On DVD:
Jan 7, 2014
Box Office:
$76.6k
Runtime:
Entertainment One - Official Site


Cast


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Critic Reviews for We Are What We Are

All Critics (81) | Top Critics (21) | Fresh (69) | Rotten (12)

A family implodes with a biting commentary on patriarchy.

Full Review… | December 16, 2013
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

"We Are What We Are" is such a patient, trusting film it may take you a while to figure out it's a horror film.

Full Review… | October 17, 2013
Arizona Republic
Top Critic

We Are What We Are doesn't waste time with cheap scares. Mickle keeps his story on a steady, slow simmer, transporting us minute by minute into the very heart of dread.

Full Review… | October 11, 2013
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic

There's some fun to be had, as long as your idea of fun includes being grossed out.

Full Review… | October 10, 2013
Washington Post
Top Critic

The movie stays elegantly restrained just long enough for the true horror of what they're doing to sink in.

Full Review… | October 10, 2013
Seattle Times
Top Critic

A campy and sometimes elegant American Gothic horror story.

Full Review… | October 10, 2013
Boston Globe
Top Critic

Another welcome entry in the ongoing revival of horror movies that rely on character and setting rather than shock and gore to chill audiences to the marrow.

Full Review… | June 28, 2014
Windy City Times

And sometimes we are who we eat.

Full Review… | April 22, 2014
Newcity

Remakes may get a lot of stick in Hollywood, as filmmakers can be accused of being somewhat lazy and uncreative in that regard.

Full Review… | March 10, 2014
HeyUGuys

An ambitious (if somewhat uneven) slice of downbeat American gothic which interweaves grim melancholia with pointed satire, doomy portent and moments of gnawing revulsion.

Full Review… | March 2, 2014
Observer [UK]

Some of the film is gruesome in the extreme but there is always lyricism and pathos alongside the bloodletting.

Full Review… | February 28, 2014
Independent

Mickle and co-writer Nick Damici give themselves plenty of time to tease out their themes and ladle on the tension.

Full Review… | February 28, 2014
Sight and Sound

Jim Mickle's savvy re-imagining of the 2010 Mexican art-house horror marks a quantum leap forward in maturity and style for the Stake Land director.

Full Review… | February 28, 2014
Radio Times

Who can resist a good cannibal movie?

Full Review… | February 28, 2014
This is London

Another pointless remake.

Full Review… | February 27, 2014
Guardian

A rare example of a remake that is as good as, if not better, than the original.

Full Review… | February 27, 2014
The List

Stupendously dull: dull with that blend of overloaded effect and under-supplied affect that bad horror alone truly offers.

Full Review… | February 27, 2014
Financial Times

Even though this is an extremely well-made film, it's difficult to know who will enjoy it, as it's far too arty for horror genre fans and much too grisly for arthouse moviegoers.

Full Review… | February 27, 2014
Contactmusic.com

This social-realist take on the cannibal sub-genre makes for a surprising lyrical and quietly profound piece of filmmaking.

Full Review… | February 27, 2014
Little White Lies

A shrug of a movie.

Full Review… | February 27, 2014
Sky Movies

Mickle prizes credible characterisation above everything else, and casts extremely good actors, who succeed in making the Parker clan feel both frail and somehow stuck out of time, like freak survivors from the 19th century.

Full Review… | February 27, 2014
Daily Telegraph

An atmospheric cannibalism horror featuring an impressive performance by Julia Garner, but it's let down by a slow first act, weak dialogue and an unsuitable score.

Full Review… | February 26, 2014
ViewLondon

Mickle has fashioned a melancholy American Gothic tale set deep among bleak, misty mountains.

Full Review… | February 25, 2014
Electric Sheep

A superb grief-soaked horror set in a desperated, godless universe, WAWWA is unnverving and moving in equal measures, easily eclipsing the original.

Full Review… | February 24, 2014
Total Film

A crunching, visceral transplant for this cannibal tale from its urban Mexican setting to an American milieu.

Full Review… | February 24, 2014
Empire Magazine

Genre fans wanting more gore and less fancy atmospherics will have their gratification delayed but certainly not denied.

Full Review… | February 5, 2014
SF Weekly

Audience Reviews for We Are What We Are

Actually pretty creepy horror movie with a theme I didn't immediately guess.
Well filmed, nicely acted and fittingly horrible story.

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romy861
Nicki Marie

Super Reviewer

½

An efficient psychological horror film that works precisely because it avoids cheap scares, adopting an oppressive cinematography to create a slow-burning, disturbing experience centered on religion, tradition and patriarchy, despite being a bit predictable in some moments.

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blacksheepboy
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

three stars...

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YodaMasterJedi
MisterYoda ?

Super Reviewer

½

We are what we are: stardust, close to divine! ...Why, yes, people, I did just reference a song from the '90s sooner than Joni Mitchell's/Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's "Woodstock", which, of course, features the line "We are stardust", and the reason why is easy: because The Flower Kings' "Stardust We Are" is awesome. Those who would say that I just forced in yet another testament of my love to progressive rock don't know that The Flower Kings are from Sweden, the home of music that is about as disturbing as this film, and those who actually know The Flower Kings would still find the reference forced, as The Flower Kings is a little too upbeat for subject matter of this type. Yeah, this is more like "We Are What We Eat", because it's about cannibals and all that delightful stuff, evidently on Orson Welles, because Bill Sage really is looking like he consumed and took on the facial form of Welles. Shoot, this story might actually be inspired by Orson Welles, as the man got so fat that he had to have had a human or too along the way, although it's not like Sage is close to Orson Welles fat in this film. Sage should have really porked out for this film in order to celebrate Mexico's recently being named the fattest country in the world, as this is based on a Mexican film, which should tell you that this film is not about Orson Welles, seeing as how Welles left his startlingly over-stressed heart in Spain, where the diet isn't as over-the-top as it is in Mexico. Yeah, I'm glad to see that they Americanized this story, because it's hard to believe that they would make all that big of a deal about cannibalism in Mexico, although I would be more glad if the potential in this story wasn't betrayed by certain aspects.

There are only so many gory moments in this mostly psychological thriller, but when the nastiness kicks in, the film gets to be really audacious in its attention to disturbing imagery that is often pretty effective in reinforcing tension, yet just as often feels gratuitous in its being so graphic, to the point of being kind of distancing, even if your investment in the characters who meet such inhuman fates is loosened by expository shortcomings. This is more of an abstract character meditations than a character study, selling its characters just fine through thoughtful storytelling and solid acting, and standing to be rather ambiguous to begin with, yet still offering much too little in the way of immediate background development, as well as only so much in the way of expository focus to progression that ironically spends plenty of time bloating itself. Nick Damici's and Jim Mickle's script meanders along pretty repetitiously limp material, if not excess filler that isn't so much comprised of aimless set pieces, as much as it's comprised of lyrical nothingness. I've already described this thriller as mostly atmospheric and abstract, so I suppose it's safe to say that this is something of an art thriller, with enough traditional structuring to feel reasonably focused, but more than a few offbeat meditative moments that feel too borderline abstract for you to get a sense of momentum, further retarded by directorial storytelling that is just as deliberately limp. Mickle's very somber and atmospheric approach to such a sparsely structured narrative gets to be penetratingly effective when chilling score work and visuals come into play, but when things are simply quiet and more-or-less unstructured, thoughtful direction is merely bland, if not out-and-out dull. Really, when it's all said and done, the biggest problem with this film is that it is artistically overblown, meeting questionable ambitions with enough inspiration to really compel in certain places, but ultimately falling pretty decidedly into underwhelmingness, with enough meandering structuring and blanding direction to have the occasional glimpse at mediocrity. Of course, mediocrity is very much evaded in the long run, and no matter how much the final product leaves you with much to be desired, in addition to some challenges to your attention span, it has some value, especially that of the stylistic persuasion.

If nothing else stands out, it's the aesthetic value of this film, which is nothing unique, sure, yet is thoroughly inspired in a hauntingly subtle way, with Ryan Samul's cinematography being richly bleak, near-surrealistically shadow-heavy, and all-around ruggedly gritty, while Jeff Grace's, Darren Morris' and Phil Mossman's light modern classical score strikes with a solid style that ranges from dreamy piano work to biting string work. Neo-gothic visual and musical styles encompass the aesthetic depths of this bleak art drama beautifully, with an effectiveness that goes augmented by inspired directorial plays on the style. Again, when material runs thin and thoughtful storytelling finds itself dully meditating upon nothingness, the film is distancing in its, well, dullness, and yet, when material kicks in, the thoughtfulness to Jim Mickle's direction goes a long, long way in digging under your skin and drawing anything from dramatic resonance to a claustrophobic sense of anxiety, sometimes flavored up by the often gratuitous attention to graphic imagery that grows more and more disturbing as the film progresses (Man, the final act is so messed up on so many levels). The film could have fallen flat as a mediocre misfire of abstract artistry, but overstylization rarely gets too carried away, and is often compensated for by many a highlight in direction which does some justice to the potential of this subject matter. Maybe this story is kind of thin, and storytelling missteps emphasize this to the point of securing the final product as underwhelming, but those many highlights in style and direction unveil intriguing depths to drama and tension through the overblown artistic value, anchored by themes dealing with the brutality of humans, and how it is disguised by, maybe even ties into family and religious affairs. The film is essentially a grimier version of, say, "Stoker", and while it is too grimy and, for that matter, artistically misguided to be nearly as rewarding as the other 2013 psychological thriller in question, those who appreciated something like "Stoker" are sure to appreciate this film to some extent, especially considering that if this film matches "Stoker" in no other department, it is the very department that made "Stoker" shine: the acting one, for what truly drives this film is a lead cast that chills to the bone about as much as anything, with little Jack Gore capturing the confusion of the youngest child in a disturbed household, and Julia Garner being convincing as a flawed young lady who is more curious about her family's disturbing lifestyle than anything, while leading lady Ambyr Childers nails the distraught atmosphere of a quiet girl who struggles to hang on to an ever-thinning shred of humanity, and Bill Sage simply steals the show with an intensely subdued and often dramatically charged portrayal of a loving, but mentally and physically ill patriarch who carries his loved ones into dark secrets in the midst of grief over the loss of his wife. While Childers and Sage stick with you the most, the film could be considered a solid vehicle for striking atmospheric acting that this drama just wouldn't be the same without, and while the final product fails to be solid in enough other departments be nearly as worthwhile as the performances which carry it, there is enough skill to the style and highlights, both on and off of the screen, to make the final product endearing, through all of its questionable elements.

Once the feast is finished, some gratuitous gore, expository shortcomings, overly draggy structuring and often dullingly over-atmospheric direction leave the final product to collapse just short of rewarding, yet where this film could have fallen further, say, into mediocrity, under the weight of its artistic questionability, hauntingly beautiful cinematography and score work, biting highlights to the telling of an intriguing story, and solid performances - especially by leading lady Ambyr Childers and the show-stealing Bill Sage - ultimately prove to be enough to make Jim Mickle's "We Are What We Are" an aesthetically and sometimes narratively gripping art thriller, in spite of some artistic bloatings.

2.75/5 - Decent

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Cameron W. Johnson
Cameron Johnson

Super Reviewer

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