We Are What We Are

September 29th, 2013

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We Are What We Are

The Parkers, a reclusive family who follow ancient customs, find their secret existence threatened as a torrential downpour moves into their area, forcing daughters Iris and Rose to assume responsibilities beyond those of a typical family.

Release Year: 2013

Rating: 6.3/10 (446 voted)

Director: Jim Mickle

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.

Writers: ,

Taglines: Blood is the strongest bond.


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Rating: 7/10

We Are What We Are is an English language remake of the Spanish film Somos Lo Que Hay. The word remake is sometimes looked upon as a dirty word amongst film geeks. Trepidation regarding the quality of remakes will always exist, it's only natural.

Both films are entirely different from one another despite sharing the same premise. Somos Lo Que Hay was (in my opinion) a pessimistic film rife with social commentary in regards to Capitalism and Poverty. We Are What We Are deliberately ignores that commentary and instead focuses in on the religious fundamentalism of the ritualistic family as its central theme. We Are What We Are is not just a mere shot for shot remake; it's a different beast all together.

Director and Co-Screenwriter Jim Mickle lift's the premise of the original film and relocates it from the Inner City of Mexico to the back end of Sleepy Rural Southern America. The film follows the reclusive Parker family and the bizarre rituals they practice.

It all begins when the Matriarch of the family unexpectedly passes away. Devastated and unable to cope with the sudden loss, the Patriarch (Bill Sage) of the family regresses into an emotional collapse. Leaving his two teenage daughters, Iris (Ambyr Childers) and Rose (Julia Garner), to ponder over who will step up to the plate and continue the cannibalistic rituals that the family practice every other Sunday.

The Parker's do what they do under the guise of believing that it is a penance that must be performed in order to be saved in the eyes of the lord. They follow the writings of a diary kept by an ancient patriot relative who suffered through a harsh winter with very little in the way of food supplies, thus resorting to cannibalism out of desperation.

They treat this diary as if it were their equivalent of the holy words of scripture. Thus the diary has been passed down from generation to generation and is seen as a rite of passage into adulthood – in this case the eldest daughter Rose is next in line to inherit its 'teachings'.

The family is kept under the strict ruling hand of the Patriarch -- played with unnerving intimidation by Bill Sage. He is a domineering force as he preaches his beliefs and traditions to the family in order to keep them together and to push forward with the annual ritual. Much like the film as a whole, he has a simmering rage boiling underneath his controlled exterior demeanor that threatens to erupt at any given moment; making him all the more frightening and intimidating.

His dominance makes life all the more difficult for his two teenage daughters who, with the recent death of their mother, are starting to question the ritualistic ways of their existence. They yearn for something else in life and struggle to come to grips with what it is they are. Much like the original film, denial plays an important factor for the siblings as it does for almost everyone else in the film – be it the savages or even the town sheriff denying suspicious foul play in his town. The siblings hide in denial of facing who they truly are until they are forced by cruel fate to face the beast that resides within.

Ambyr Childers and Julia Garner are excellent finds for these roles as they both deliver subdued and nuanced performances. They fit the mold perfectly as the somewhat reclusive children who can't quite fit in with the outside world. They have the frail and pale physical complexity that compliments the dreary and rain soaked atmospheric mood that the film radiates.

While the family prepare for their next ritual, a flood hits the sleepy town washing up evidence of human remains to the surface. This attracts the curiosity of the local town Doctor, played by the always wonderful Michael Parks, who is still haunted by the mysterious disappearance of his daughter. Parks serves as a replacement to the bumbling and fame hungry detectives from the original film. This is actually a wise decision as Parks bring a measure of soul and humanity to the grisly proceedings and is a more then suitable change.

Much like its spiritual predecessor, it isn't a film that relies on an overabundance of plot turns or 'gotcha' moments. It's a very slow and deliberately paced film spanning over the course of four days. This is reflected with its use of stilted yet beautifully composed cinematography made up of a dreary, rain-soaked and moody palette of rustic greys. It shows a surprising amount of restraint and has patience in taking its time building its tension whilst shining the spotlight on its characters and themes.

It's a very unassuming film where the tension is always simmering underneath just waiting to erupt. When it erupts, it grabs you by the throat unexpectedly and bites in hard. Unlike most Cannibal films that focus on gore for gore hound sake, it keeps the gruesome stuff to a minimum. But it is all the more effective for doing so. It is most surprising as the norm for most American remakes is to usually dial the volume way up to eleven. Yet this one is surprisingly restrained, maybe even more so than the original.

As far as remakes go, We Are What We Are is a fascinating case study of a remake done rather well.There is no familiarity between both the movies, despite a few casual sly nods of referencing here and there to the original film, it stands apart as a drastically different film that has something else on its mind and as is, it does stand very well next to its original counterpart. 7/10

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