I love the title of this movie. If you don’t know what the ‘big secret’ is in the film, you don’t have to worry about me giving it away here. The title, We Are What We Are, has a well-rounded meaning for the family that the story revolves around. The family has a secret, a religious ritual that has been part of their heritage for centuries, and nothing will stop them from their way of life that is so deeply ingrained within them. While watching the slow-burn horror unravel, you have an idea/fear the entire time as to what this secret is, though it is left unsaid for almost two-thirds of the film. You feel like you are a part of their dirty, little secret and just waiting for everything to explode.
We Are What We Are is originally a Mexican film made in 2010. I hate to admit that I have yet to see the original, though I have heard that the remake is better, an uncommon occurrence that I cannot corroborate. At the beginning of the film, a downtrodden and sick looking woman dies; this woman leaves behind her two beautiful teenage daughters, young son, and husband. And so the story follows this grieving family. The daughters, Iris and Rose, seem wise beyond their years, serious and disciplined. An innocence is lost when their mother dies in the form a new duties among the household. They must uphold their family traditions even if it means hurting others. A doctor, who performed the autopsy on their mother, makes a startling discovery that leads him sniffing the family’s trail.
The acting by all those involved is first-class, having the ability to draw the audience into the story. Even more commendable though, is the striking imagery. From the beginning of the film, the desolate landscape creates a moody and atmospheric thriller. The location plays a big role in the film since the small town is devastated by a recent flood. This gives me a feeling from the Harmony Korine film, Gummo. The burden of this natural disaster adds a heaviness to the already foreboding atmosphere of the film.
This is not a typical horror movie. It is not over-the-top or action packed. Instead, it is an understated and intelligent film. The violence level is low throughout most of the film, but the disturbance factor is high. The ‘ritual scene’ is not too graphic but strangely hypnotic and romantic feeling somehow. You aren’t expecting a gruesome conclusion, so when this does happen is it utterly startling and unpredictable. It took me a while to get around to watching this film, but I am so glad I did as it easily goes in the top horror films of 2013.
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