We Are What We Are (Jim Mickle, 2013)
It runs in the family.
photo credit: IFC Films
Less than a minute into Jim Mickle’s reimagining—one cannot call it a remake with a straight face—of Jorge Grau’s fine 2010 film Somos lo que Hay, he has already made it plain to the viewer who has seen the previous film that We Are What We Are is a different movie indeed. The two movies start with the same event; the death of the head of a family. While that death is never explained in the 2010 film (the family gets a visit from the coroner about two-thirds of the way through this version with a cause of death, not that it matters), the two of them are virtually identical in the method in which each family member dies; it starts with a nosebleed, descends quickly into convulsions, and within seconds that person has shuffled off this mortal coil. It is the circumstances surrounding the two deaths that make all the difference. When Papa does in the 2010 film, he is in a large city. He is surrounded by people, yet he is utterly alone and anonymous. (One of the movie’s finest, funniest, blackest scenes is the revelation of what happens to him after his death, which takes place in the following minute or so.) In the 2013 film, Emma Parker (Evil Dead II‘s Kassie DePaiva) is trying to beat a coming storm in a small backwoods town somewhere in Appalachia, frantically grabbing groceries, but still managing to have time to have a conversation with the clerk at the general store. (Yes, this town is small enough to still have a general store.) In the space of a couple of minutes, Jim Mickle has changed the sex of the dying parent and the type of city in which the family lives. This should be creating a string of “what if?”s in the head of any viewer who has seen the original movie. It is to Jim Mickle (Mulberry St.)’s credit that instead of doing this and then trying to shoehorn the rest of the movie into remake territory, he gives us, essentially, an entirely new film based on those “what if?”s. And it is a good one indeed, Jim Mickle’s best film to date.
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