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We Are What We Are « Ectomag

We Are What We Are

I am fascinated by cannibals. Years of driving through the mountains and deserts that dot the landscape between LA and Arizona has filled my head with images of insestious, cannibal clans lurking just over the next hill. Waiting in the darkness for some unlucky traveler to have car trouble so that can drag them off into the darkness and do unspeakable things to them. They are the daydreams that  made me want to watch We Are What We Are. I wanted something to bring may fantasies of murderous mountain clans to life. We Are What We Are plays with the edges of of a family of cannibals, but doesn’t manage to drive home  the horror  nearly as well as I would have liked.

The film opens with the Parker  family matriarch dying in a freak accident while she’s running errands in town. The entire family is devastated by the loss of their mother. Mrs. Parker’s body is barely cold when Mr. Parker announces that his eldest daughter Iris is going to take her mother’s place and kill the the townie being held captive in the basement so that the family will  have enough meat to get through the next few weeks. Iris tries to come to terms the family’s tradition of killing townspeople for food, but younger sister Rose wants no part in the ritual no matter their father says Jesus wants from them.

The first 30 minutes of We Are What We are starts out fairly solid. They take the time to show how the Parker family’s tradition of insanity and cannibalism dates back to colonial times. I also loved the way the relationship between Iris and Rose is written. As the reluctant but loyal older sister Iris Amber Childers does a wonderful job of portraying the state of constant conflict that Iris lives in. She is suddenly thrown into the role of mother and murderer all while trying to temper longing to pursue a little nookie with the local deputy even though it goes against her family’s strict religious code. Along side Julia Gardner as Rose, the two young actresses do a brilliant job of selling the relationship between people who are trapped between the expectation of their father and their desire not to grow up to be cannibalistic serial killers. Their performances are consistently the best parts of We Are What We Are. Even when the script calls for something hopelessly cheesy these girls manage to pull off great performances. The rest of the cast doesn’t hold up nearly as well.

When  reading the press releases around We Are What We Are, they all makes a big deal out of Mr. Parker being an evil domineering force that pushes his daughters into the ways of cannibalism. Mr. Parker isn’t a pleasant man by any means, but he was hardly the malevolent evil force that I was expecting. He pushes his family into cannibalism because it’s something that the family has done for centuries not because he is hell bent on being evil. The most domineering thing that he does in the film is kill the boy that wants to shag Iris. I submit that most fathers want to kill the boys that are trying to fuck their daughters. I wanted Mr. Parker to be played with more malice. I wanted him to be a fire and brimstone preacher that uses the threat of violence and eternal damnation to keep his family in line. Instead he’s played as the strong silent type. Like Clint Eastwood as a flesh eating country preacher.

The rest of the story centers around the town doctor’s quest to unravel the mystery of the Parker family and how it relates to the disappearance of his daugher. I understand that the film needs someone or something to expose the Parker family’s secrets, but it could have been executed much better what it was. The way he draws links between the death of Mrs. Parker and the family being cannibals was ham fisted at best. And it doesn’t get any better as he get closer to the mystery. After years of lurking in the shadows he suddenly finds series of human bones that he is able to link to  the Parkers. I understand that  some of these things need to happen in order to move the story along. But for fucks sake the way they bring the whole thing together feels like a discarded episode of Scooby -Doo, only they don’t get to wear cheap rubber masks. On the plus side, it was nice to see that  Kelly McGillis is still able to get work, even if it is a bit part in a random horror film.

Overall We Are What We are isn’t a bad film but it could have been a lot better than what it is. They had so much good material to work with in this film; from cannibalism to religious nut jobs they could have been a great vehicle to explore all sorts of psychotic behavior. Instead  they took the safe route and made a film that while serviceable doesn’t pack the horror-thriller punch that I was looking for in this film.

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