I always talk about the idea of being ‘in front’ of the audience as opposed to being ‘behind’ an audience. Some movies are inherently flawed, because it takes them an hour to get to where the audience already is.
When you go to watch the Spiderman reboot, you already know that Peter Parker gets powers and becomes Spiderman. If its a hour before he puts on the suit, the movie is an hour ‘behind’ the audience, and you are wasting their time pretending that something else could happen.
In the first few minutes of We Are What We Are, it becomes very clear that we are not going to be able to anticipate what is happening. Frank Parker is a recent widower, whose wife dies rather inexplicably in the opening scene.
Parker has three children, Rory, Rose and Iris.
While they are dealing with the death of their mother, Doc Barrow (the inestimable Michael Parks) performs an autopsy on the woman and finds the signs of Parkinson’s disease.
Later during a driving rain, Frank comes across a woman stranded by her stalled out vehicle. Frank attacks her and kidnaps her. It was around this point that I knew I had no idea what was going on.
After that it becomes apparent that there is going to be a ritual, one that has happened many times, one that Frank is maniacal in doing. Frank forces Rose and Iris to kill and butcher the woman, and then he prepares her and serves her at dinner to his traumatized children.
There are a lot of people missing as it turns out. Instead of a Bible, the Parkers have a diary that has been passed down over centuries, the raving of mad ancestor reduced to cannibalism after a harsh winter, and the ritual he created afterwards as penance to the Lord.
But the demands of this lifestyle are too much for the Parkers. Frank is falling apart, and the implications of his insanity are pretty grim for his family. Eating people has exposed the Parkers to a rare disease quite similar to Parkinson’s which they are not aware of. And Doc Barrow is close to getting his answers, but answers in a horror movie come with a high cost.
The children are trapped in a lifestyle they didn’t choose, but enough time in any situation and you might not ever be able to recover.
We Are What We ends on a shock that I don’t know that I have seen a film end on before, and up to that point its still a corker. It says a lot that this didn’t break my top 10.