In an unusual and rare twist, I am mildly annoyed by a horror remake. We Are What We Are, directed by Jim Mickle (Stake Land), is a remake of the Mexican film of the same name. Now that this film is available on Netflix, Twitter has lit up with conversation about it. It seems to be the consensus that the remake is superior and the original is, simply, “meh”. I am absolutely gobsmacked by this. Why? Usually, I’m the one preaching tolerance and acceptance of remakes while the minority rallies against them; without even seeing them! After falling in love with the original film and all of it’s layered themes, I was beyond excited about an English language version and then I find out that the gender roles have been reversed?! Well, now I am so optimistic that it’s just stupid; and perhaps that was my biggest downfall.
We Are What We Are is the story of a family of cannibals that is living amongst us. Once a year, they perform a ritual in order to maintain their families’ survival. In this film, it is the mother who is the leader of the family. With a husband, two daughters and a young son, she leaves her family in a state of shock and panic when she unexpectedly passes away in a freak accident. Because the women are the ones in power, as it should be, the oldest daughter, Iris, will take on the responsibility of ensuring that the ritual is completed.
Iris (Amber Childers) is given a journal by her father Frank (Bill Sage); this contains the history of how her family came to this particular religious practice. Basically, what it comes down to, is the family was going to starve, so, Dad killed his brother and served him to his wife and daughters. He then told them that “all is forgiven in the eyes of The Lord”. Why a family who lives in a functioning, educated part of society would continue on with this practice is beyond me. It’s clear that the girls are not comfortable with it and they only comply out of familial obligation and good manners. It is their father, who married into the “faith”, that is insistent on perpetuating the cannibalism. He uses the word of The Lord as his defense, logic and reasoning. I try to not be offended when religion is used in flippant ways in horror movies, but this gets annoying and mildly offensive. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense. Who am I to argue with the word of The Lord, though?
This family lives in a small, tight knit community which brings up all kinds of problems. The local doctor finds some unusual symptoms in the mother during autopsy and then he finds human remains while walking his dog. His daughter is one of a few young girls that have gone missing in this community,so, he becomes a bit obsessive about putting all of the pieces together. All of this malarky culminates in a “shocking” ending that isn’t terribly shocking. In all seriousness, I cannot think of a more obvious solution for this family. For me, this movie was a bit too serious for it’s own good and relied too heavily on religion as a catch all reason for everyone’s behavior. I absolutely adore that Iris and her sister, Rose, were the ones who had the brains and the brawn, but they were still just caricatures of good girls.
Overall, this remake is a “better” movie than the original in the sense that it is more accessible,but that is exactly my problem with it. What I first saw as a horror movie with commentary on family and homosexuality was Americanized down so much that it simply became a story of a family that represents the token backwoods clan that we see all too often in horror. This family is surrounded by modern culture, religion, and societal values, yet continue in their anachronistic and barbaric ways. Why do these intelligent women do what they are told despite their obvious objections? The only thing that they did for themselves was the shocking ending. For me, this one was meh. I will take thought provoking story lines over recycled ones any day.