In We Are What We Are, Jim Mickle and Nick Damici gave us an atmospheric and terrifying entry in the family horror genre. In the beginning, not only does the rainstorm slowly uncover the Parker’s secret, but also it compliments the film’s washed out colors and bleak and somber tone. Each scene is discomforting quiet because there’s a minimal amount of dialog and sometimes a few haunting piano pieces. Instead, the actors often have to rely on body language to display their increasing anxiety. When the story arrives at the final confrontation between Michael Parks and Bill Sage’s characters, the combination of Jim Mickle’s camera work, and Parks and Sage’s body language and dialog a delicious and menacing scene worth repeat viewings.
Although this film retains several mysteries, overall it isn’t a typical who-done-it. Instead, the story allows us to slowly follow a trail of bread crumbs to uncover the family’s secret. The first few scenes drop enough hints for us to understand we’re on a bloody path; however, we have yet to discover how depraved the family is. Unlike other family horrors such as Devil’s Rejects, Texas Chainsaw, Spider Baby and so on, this story keeps turning on our expectations. Rather than following the same tropes and formulas we’ve watched in the past, each scene is weighted down by the character’s moral dilemmas. Each character has depth and honesty and they aren’t one note psychopaths one would typically expect.
Because of the pacing and style, it’s hard to talk about the story beyond the surface level. Each significant plot reveal only adds that much more to the experience and horror of this film. If one squints hard enough they may view this as a commentary on religiosity. However, like a great record, it’s better to just put this one without preconceived expectations and watch how beautifully the pacing, the acting, and story twist together one of 2013’s finest horror movies.