Best Horror Movies of the Decade: We Are What We Are paints a portrait of a dysfunctional family...of cannibals
All this month, we are counting down the 31 best horror movies of the decade and doing a closer look at why each one earned a spot on our list!
23. We Are What We Are (dir. Jim Mickle, 2013)
“You know very well that nothing flows upstream," says Doctor Barrow (Michael Parks) in the aftermath of a flood that turned his small upstate New York town upside down. He's talking to the sheriff in town about how he found some bones washed up in the creek, likely knocked loose by the torrential rains. They wouldn't belong to the dead cattle on the farm downstream...they came from somewhere else. Plus, they seem like human bones. Whatever secrets that Barrow may be unearthing, much like the truth, they won't stay buried for long.
Jim Mickle's 2013 Sundance horror hit We Are What We Are concerns the peculiar Parker family, whose matriarch dies suddenly early on, leaving father Frank (Bill Sage) to care for his teen daughters Iris (Ambyr Childers), Rose (Julia Garner), and young son Rory (Jack Gore). Frank, unkempt and moody, prone to bursts of violence and developing a noticeable hand tremor, is not really up for the task of keeping everyone together. His duty will remain unchanged- of fomenting fire and brimstone down on his kids. His wife did all the housekeeping, like cooking, and he expects his eldest, Iris, to take that on. Unfortunately for her, and for the townspeople too, the family lineage has passed down a, er, recipe for death and violence that will make ripple outward in big ways. You see, they are descendants of a Cannibalistic cult of extremist Christians, and daddy likes to keep up the family tradition.
The film, a remake of 2010 Mexican film Somos lo que hay, stands out immediately because of its beautiful cinematography. It is of a class of 2010's horror film that feels as inspired by the lyricism of Terrence Malick as it does the frights of Stephen King. It more or less rains for the entirety of the movie, adding to the perfectly managed tone. There is also a strong sense of place in this Catskill town, and you feel immediately that you are trapped in it with them.
It is the type of rural American town that, only a few years after the 2008 crash, was up and dying–no jobs to be had and little mercy to be found. The plight of the Parkers and their fellow townspeople is echoed in flashbacks to the Parker clan of the 1780's, who kept a journal that was passed down. In it, we discover the origins of their ghastly ritual, which was borne out of a place of scarcity, survival, and rigid fanaticism- the same elements that made it ripe for them to continue with today. What keeps it going though, is the silencing effect of the generational trauma. Could this clan of Parkers be the one to change things?
This isn't a movie that follows too many genre rules, or even tells much of a genre story. It's a dark, gothic tale of family suffering, and that's part of what makes it stand apart from many other horror films of the decade. Throw in Bill Sage (Mysterious Skin) and his uncanny ability to play truly evil men, an early appearance from Wyatt Russell as a young cop who falls for Iris, and a gory surprise ending, and you have the one of a kind experience ofWe Are What We Are.