A remake is a remake is a remake!
Written By: Nick Damici & Jim Mickle
Directed By: Jim Mickle
I was a big fan of 2010’s Mexican horror film, Somos lo que hay. That film resonated with me and struck me in a way I had not expected at the time. When I heard there was going to be an American remake I was naturally skeptical. I’d seen far too many great foreign horror films remade as drab, mediocre, or outright awful American horror enterprises. For that reason I pushed We Are What We Are onto the way, way, way back burner and didn’t give the film a second thought.
Fast Forward to October of 2015 and on a rain soaked night at the fire station I’m looking for something to watch. It’s October so naturally I’m perusing the horror category on Netflix before anything else. Well, truth be told I peruse the horror category first whether it’s October or May. Either way, one of the first films I stumble across is We Are What We Are. My curiosity gets the best of me and I decide to give Jim Mickle’s film a whirl.
Less than three minutes into the film I was highly intrigued by what Mickle was attempting with his film. Not only was the environment different, but so were the characters, their purpose, and their possible destinations. It was refreshing to watch a remake that kept the core idea of the original while at the same time realigning the majority of the film so that something new could come about. Mickle’s hands are all over We Are What We Are, enough so that I have no issue saying this is an entirely different film than the original.
Where this difference most comes into play is in the characters of Iris and Rose. They are the characters who drive the narrative, and the longer the film goes the more power they take over the viewer as opposed to any male character. This is essential to the subtext of We Are What We Are, that of female empowerment coupled with emasculation. The male characters have their own motivations, their own purpose, but compared to those of the female characters they are petty and trivial. In a way this mirrors the classic, yet maligned, role of the female throughout history. While men do things that they have decided are of great importance it is the women in the background who do the lion’s share of the important work. We Are What We Are is a statement on the importance and power of women, and how even if we don’t want to recognize their power or importance they still exist.
All of this subtext is great, but it begs the question of We Are What We Are’s status as a horror film. To me it’s silly that we even have to ask such a question and can be laid at the alter of the notion that horror films need be scary. No, they most certainly do not need to scare, though they can. There’s nothing traditionally scary about Mickle’s opus, though the film is dripping with a brooding and ominous atmosphere. Horror can be anything, it’s not just limited to being scary. We Are What We Are is further proof of that as Mickle has crafted a horror film about atmosphere and social standing.
If you were like me, which is a scary enough thought on its own, and avoiding We Are What We Are because of its status as a remake; please don’t. Jim Mickle has crafted a fine horror film; one that is as thoughtful as it is atmospheric. I’d be especially interested to hear the take of someone who is better versed in feminist concepts than I. We Are What We Are is a deep film, both in terms of its subtext and the atmosphere it creates. More than anything though, We Are What We Are is a classically refined take on the horror genre.