Wednesday, October 1, 2014

31 Days of Horror-Day 1: We Are What We Are (2013)

(dir. Jim Mickle)

*First time viewing

     This October I’ll be counting down the days to Halloween with a horror movie each night. Some of these will be old favorites but most will be first time views. While I have a pretty good idea of my lineup going forward, I’m always interested in seeking out hidden gems so feel free to offer any up in the comments section.

     First up we have Jim Mickle’s We Are What We Are, a remake of the Mexican film Somos Lo Que Hay. The film centers on a reclusive family with an unsettling tradition. The less you know about the film’s story beforehand, the more effective it is (beware the spoilerific Netflix synopsis). Though the mid-story twist is somewhat telegraphed early on, the film manages to stay interesting and deliver on the title’s promise in a pretty horrific way.

     Jim Mickle’s film is a slow burner and it isn’t until about two-thirds of the way through that the tension begins to mount and the situation gives way to more traditional horror elements (traditional but mostly un-formulaic). If you’re looking for something different from the standard slasher or supernatural tale then this film is definitely worth a watch. I’d even go so far as to say the film feels literary in its unhurried examination of character and emphasis on subtext. Quite a lot is achieved in terms of creating unease through little dialogue and un-indulgent use of violence. I commend Mickle for avoiding the third act exposition that I thought the film was heading towards, though this may leave a few unanswered questions in the end. The sense of unease is further created by the frequent landscape shots that serve to highlight the seclusion of the characters and their separation from normal society. Most important to the film’s mood are Julia Garner and Ambyr Childers, who play sisters. In their own way, each provide a quiet intensity and sadness that pave the way for a terrific, and nauseating conclusion.

Scare Factor: 3/5  While there is little in the way of jump scares and it takes a while for the film to take off, the film is well worth a watch for its climax alone. We Are What We Are likely won’t keep any Halloween parties going and you probably won’t lose any sleep over it, but it should at least make your stomach churn. And on these early October days, what more could you ask for?

**Available to watch on Netflix Instant.

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