One of the reasons I love Psycho so much is that Norman Bates seems like a normal guy, like he could be your next door neighbour or the guy you pass down the street. The revelation that he has some serious screws missing is made all the more impactful because of this.
There is little to be scared of when it comes to demonic forces, vampires or zombies but when it’s just the local family up the street…suddenly it becomes much more sinister.
We Are What We Are has you guessing from the start, you can’t help it. From the moment a woman arrives at a local store in the pouring rain with something clearly not right with her you’re wondering just what they are.
After leaving the store she stops to look at a poster of missing teenage girls before she begins to bleed from the mouth. She stumbles, hits her head & falls in a rain-filled ditch were she drowns.
She was the wife of Frank Parker & mother to teenage Iris, Rose & young Rory. The family are an isolated bunch & father Frank was hugely reliant on his wife. His daughters seeing that he isn’t coping well agree to take on their mothers religious duties including a ritual of some kind. It’s something neither girl appears comfortable with.
Later, during a storm Frank is driving along & sees a young woman stranded at the side of the road, her vehicle broken down. He seems to think about her helping her before grabbing a tyre-iron & approaching her.
It becomes clear that Frank is responsible for the slew of missing girls over the years but his motivations are still unclear. Young Rory finds the woman captive some time later in his fathers work shed, his father is furious with him & forces his daughters to kill the girl & cut her up for meat.
Turns out the Parker family are part of a long lineage of cannibals who have kept their traditions through religious beliefs. The loss of Mrs Parker though has taken a heavy toll on the family & her autopsy reveals more information to the town doctor then he bargained for.
After bones wash up in the creek his becomes even more suspicious having a missing daughter himself. He begins to investigate the family…With Frank’s grief, his 2 conflicted daughters causing problems & the town doctor on the families’ case the tradition might be coming to an end.
We Are What We Are takes the cannibal story & adds a more humane family twist. At first I wondered why the cannibal reveal was so early in the movie but it sets up a tense finale including a dinner scene that really makes for nervous watching.
It’s not a gory movie but when it wants to be nasty it doesn’t pull any punches. The scene of slaughter involving 2 young girls cutting up a body as if it’s a piece of beef is unsettling. Everyone involved does a wonderful job in the acting department particularly Frank Parker. It’s hard to demonise a man who is just following his religious beliefs no matter how out-dated or wrong they may appear.
A couple of flashbacks to how the whole lineage began adds some flesh to the bones of the story & it never feels stupid. One of the things that finally undo’s the cannibalistic crimes is the storm…the worst for a long time. It floods out rivers & destroys the hiding place for the victim’s bones washing them down-river.
The scene were Frank realises where is dead wife hid the bones & what is happening is great as he tires to collect them all before they are washed away all the while struggling against the tide. It’s extremely relevant…
The ending is left open for …something I wouldn’t say I agree with especially as it results in a kind of ‘that’s never going to work out’ thought.
I enjoyed watching this & enjoyed the slow build filled with tension. The details about exactly what effect a diet of human flesh would have on a human body was both clever & interesting & made it all seem so much more real.
We Are What We Are