M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Three of my decade-long Retro-Best in Horror recap Countdowns begins officially on October 1, 2012 and goes through September 30, 2013. I have posted compilation lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t!
How did I compile this list? I simply looked through films released between October 1st, 2012 and September 30, 2013 and worked and reworked the list until I had the magic number—31. Again, I never call myself any kind of expert in horror. I simply watch a lot of horror films and love writing about them. Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!
Released on September 27, 2013 and available on digital download, On Demand and BluRay/DVD here!
WE ARE WHAT WE ARE (2013)
Directed by Jim Mickle
Written by Jim Mickle, Nick Damici
Starring Bill Sage, Ambyr Childers, Julia Garner, Kassie Wesley DePaiva, Kelly McGillis, Wyatt Russell, Michael Parks, Nick Damici
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Making a remake almost always sets a filmmaker up for a failure. Make the film too much like the original and you’re bound to get flack for unoriginality and the unnecessary-ness of the existence of the sequel in the first place. Deviate too far from the original and you’re likely to lose the audience that is already built in who liked the original. While history has proven that Americanized remakes of foreign horror films are rarely as good as the original, every now and then there needs to be an exception to the rule. Jim Mickle’s WE ARE WHAT WE ARE—a tale told that may very well live in the same universe as Jorge Michel Grau’s film with the same title–is one of those exceptions.
I saw Grau’s WE ARE WHAT WE ARE a few years ago when it played at the Chicago International Film Festival and was blown away at this operatic tale of how family tradition can make people stay together while at the same time tear them apart. While the film is about cannibalism, it also delved into the complexities of family relations and roles members in a family play with one another. When one of the parents dies, that family dynamic shifts, and Grau’s story describes how destructive that shift can be using cannibalism as a metaphor for how loss can shatter a family, yet also make it stronger.
While shuffling around the sexes of the family members, Mickle’s version does the same thing as the Parkers are devastated when their mother (played by EVIL DEAD 2’s Bobby Joe herself, Kassie Wesley DePaiva) dies, leaving the patriarch Frank Parker (played by AMERICAN PSYCHO and PRECIOUS actor Bill Sage) to take care of the family. Frank is devastated, shown weeping uncontrollably when he learns of his wife’s demise, and these moments play out like hammers to the heart in the early moments. Seeing the innocent yet worn faces of the two daughters (older sister Iris played by THE MASTER’s Ambyr Childers and Rose the younger played by THE LAST EXORCISM 2 and MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE’s Julia Garner) only deepens the blow, and for quite a long time in this film, you feel sympathetic for this family for their loss. The casting is what is key here, as Sage is a battleship of a presence as the fractured man trying to lead the family, and both Childers and especially Garner play roles that should definitely lead them to stardom. The weight of carrying on the family tradition is communicated not only in the heavy story of hardship we see playing out, but in the silent and sad-painted faces as the family copes with the loss and reshuffles in order to survive. Though dark deeds are suggested from the very beginning of this one, the teeth of cannibalism aren’t really shown for quite awhile. When it does happen, it’s a powerful revelation–one that could have come off as hokey in less capable hands and played by less capable actors. Thankfully, that’s not the case on either part.
What impressed me the most about WE ARE WHAT WE ARE is the leap in quality and patient restraint director Mickle takes in his handling of the film in comparison with his last effort, STAKELAND. While that film had a lot going for it, it was still squaloring around in the ooze of genre. Sure WE ARE WHAT WE ARE is about cannibals, but aside from that it’s a powerful drama about loss. The blood and gore that happens later might put off some as they are pretty gratuitous, but the fact that Mickle was so patient with doling out the darkness and so deft at showing us the tragic lives of these characters proves that he is a director of immense talent.
While I prefer the operatic finish of the original film, the ending of Mickle’s version is just as satisfying. Leaving things somewhat open-ended, Mickle proved himself to have what it takes as a director who can make something as outlandish as cannibalism seem like something real rather than the over-the-top meat eaters we see in the TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE films, and in turn makes the story all the more frightening. With fantastic smaller roles by the astounding Kelly McGillis as a nosy neighbor, Michael Parks as the town coroner, Wyatt Russell (Kurt and Goldie’s son all growed up and surprisingly good here) and STAKELAND’s Nick Damici as the sheriff, star-making performances by newcomers Ambyr Childers and Julia Garner and a thunderous performance by Bill Sage, WE ARE WHAT WE ARE is the type of film that makes me proud to be a horror fan. It’s a film I will show to others when I say that just because it is horror that doesn’t mean it always has to be lowbrow. Just as powerful as the original, yet very much different, Mickle’s WE ARE WHAT WE ARE is a horror masterpiece that bites deep into the heart and eats it.
THE 2012-2013 COUNTDOWN!
#11 – WE ARE WHAT WE ARE
#12 – THE CONJURING
#13 – SIGHTSEERS
#14 – WITHER
#15 – KISS OF THE DAMNED
#16 – JUG FACE
#17 – NO ONE LIVES
#18 – YOU’RE NEXT
#19 – HOME SWEET HOME
#20 – THE TAINT
#21 – THE PURGE
#22 – RITUAL/MODUS ANOMALI
#23 – V/H/S/2
#24 – MON AMI
#25 – EUROPA REPORT
#26 – BLIND ALLEY
#27 – MIDNIGHT SON
#28 – DEVIL’S PASS
#29 – COME OUT AND PLAY
#30 – THE LAST WILL & TESTAMENT OF ROSALIND LEIGH
#31 – I DIDN’T COME HERE TO DIE
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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