One of my favourite films from last year, the moody cannibal poem We Are What We Are is about to hit screens in the UK, so the fellows at Mostly Film have kindly let me rap about its brilliance. Stand-up guys, the Mostly Film team, and I've been honored to write for them. I've written about We Are twice on these pages, but never quite got to the heart of the matter, so I'm thrilled I got to go on at length about what it gets right. Below is my previous entry on the film, when it made my best films of the year list and topped my best horror list.
There may be better films this year but none that managed to be completely absorbing drama as well as a very effective horror film and one of the finest remakes I've ever seen. Jim Mickle's been getting better with every film and here we arrive at something on the level of Ti West's House of the Devil, though it's far closer in style to The Innkeepers. A wife and mother of three dies, leaving them to carry on in her absence as an important ritual draws nearer. Bill Sage's father is the source of the film's terror, himself a kind of walking jump scare. Religious fervor is the subject, and the faces of children a series of reflections. Watching the way Sage trying to get his son to sing Tom Waits with him says so much about the kind of life he's inflicted on his kids. It's frightening as anything in the moment when something unexpected comes into the frame without warning, but the scare lasts longer when it's against a child's hope of the life they want. The eldest daughter's dream doesn't include her father or his way of life, and in the film's most abrupt, violent outburst, he becomes the most scary force she's ever encountered. Everything she's ever believed is shattered, and yet she can't bring herself to turn away because family is all she has. The real injustice of religious indoctrination. Mickle's film overflows with moral conundrums but none he harps on. They merely colour the precedings as things spiral further and further out of everyone's grasp. We Are What We Are grew in my estimation with every day that passed. A remake, yes, but a haunting, lovely visit with some cannibals hiding away in the woods instead of the original's percussive visit to the lower depths. The more I ruminated the more I remembered every rainy composition on the fringes of the story. Mickle is a master at flow and he's far more interested in perspective and implication than traditional build-and-release favored by many horror maestros. If there's going to be blood, he doesn't hide it. He's a dramatist at heart, wringing more tension from the inevitable than the unknown, he just happens to love horror trappings. His voice is becoming clearer with every film and this is by far his most mature and enthralling work.