Horror Movies

WE ARE WHAT WE ARE. Truly unsettling horror movie

We Are What We Are is an American remake of a Mexican horror film of the same title.

Filip Jalowski

30 March 2024

WE ARE WHAT WE ARE. Truly unsettling horror movie

I haven’t seen the original, but according to Jim Mickle’s pressbook, he insists that it’s not a simple transplant of the story created by our southern neighbors onto American soil. Whether this holds true in reality, I can’t say, but it seems highly probable to me because much of Mickle’s film indulges in tropes typical of American horror movies.

So in We Are What We Are, we have this peculiar family living in a small house on the outskirts of a slightly larger town. Everyone knows each other, meets at the same store, drinks at the same bar — typical. During a heavy downpour, the wife of the Parker family head dies in a tragic accident. She loses her balance, hits her head on a protruding pipe, and loses consciousness, drowning in a puddle that formed near the curb washed out by the rain. The father cannot cope with the loss. One manifestation of his anger is his adamant refusal to eat, which he also consistently makes difficult for his children — two teenage daughters and their little brother. From the beginning, it’s clear that there’s something off about the family. It quickly becomes apparent that this “off” thing resides in the basement carefully concealed by the father. His son refers to the whole thing as a “monster,” while the girls and father are more aware. I won’t reveal what lies behind the locked wooden doors.

We Are What We Are Bill Sage Ambyr Childers Julia Garner

Since I want to avoid significant spoilers, I must omit the best and most surprising parts of the film, which occur towards the end. It’s precisely for these moments that We Are What We Are is worth watching. American horrors flooding into cinemas are rarely as straightforward as Mickle’s film during its final minutes. This cannot be overstated. Unfortunately, the screenplay falters in everything leading up to the ending (it’s precisely this ending that elevates the final rating by a notch, or perhaps even more). The script is heavily contrived and filled with absurdities. The detective and sheriff behave as if they had just finished elementary school, and that with a failing grade. This is the domain of mid-range horror.

WE ARE WHAT WE ARE Wyatt Russell Ambyr Childers

The film is saved by the acting and quite decent cinematography, which at times manages to create a truly unsettling atmosphere. Both Ambyr Childers (The Master, The Gangster Squad), Bill Sage (American Psycho, Mysterious Skin, seven Hartley films), and the young (and perhaps the best) Julia Garner handle themselves well. Only the youngest member of the Parker family significantly lags behind in acting. Jack Gore certainly has parents or their good friends in the film industry. I don’t see any other reasons that would have allowed him to win the casting.

We Are What We Are Ambyr Childers Julia Garner

Watching We Are What We Are isn’t painful, but (excluding the ending) there’s not much pure enjoyment in this act. I wouldn’t recommend a cinema visit, but in the comfort of your own home — why not, why not.