We Are What We Are is the remake of a Mexican film of the same title which showed at Frightfest 2010. But don’t look at the word “remake” and skip to the next, as this is more than a relocation and translation for those who don’t like reading subtitles!
Director Jim Mickle (Stake Land) takes the core of the original – a family following an ancient custom that they have to keep secret – and adds some depth to the characterisation as well as contextualising with a massive storm that adds both atmosphere and tension. The actors are all solid, with Bill Sage (American Psycho) playing an effective patriarch and Julia Garner and Ambyr Childers believable as sisters Rose and Iris.
It’s best to go in not having seen much about the original, as the spoiler element of foreknowledge is more keenly felt than most remakes; indeed, there are times where it feels like the film is focussing on mystery for its own sake and there isn’t much of an urge to return for a second watch.
Still, though, it’s rare to see a remake surpass the original, and while still no classic We Are What We Are manages that uncommon feat. And yes, that really is Kelly McGillis! ***1/2