Straight off the film looks good. It’s competently shot, with infrequent burst of beautiful, cold cinematography and practical effects & make-up are convincing. Technically there’s nothing to really critique, in fact it’s the good looks that enable the first third or so to keep your morbid attention as the Parker family’s matriarch suffers a mysterious fate. From there though the plot just never seems to start with seemingly big revelations either being passed off completely or happening too fast in blind jumps to conclusions.
Most of the blame falls on the script as characters have almost no discernible character traits and the only motivations that actually do exist, those of the family’s two daughters (played by Ambyr Childers and Julia Garner on a level slightly above consciousness), are betrayed at the end. There’s no development, no arcs to latch onto throughout, and as such there’s a real barrier impeding the buildup of tension. It feels very underwhelming
The generally bland performances don’t help matters much either. Outside of the father’s (played by Bill Sage – the love child of Josh Brolin and Jeff Bridges in looks only) occasional menace, there’s nothing here to get excited about. Even Michael Parks as the town’s forensic pathologist, Doc Brown, is disappointingly sedate when scenery chewing might have been precisely the injection of energy the film needed.
Much of this might have been remedied if the film wasn’t played so straight but instead of indulging in B-movie schlockiness, Jim Mickle seems to shoot for moody character drama, missing rather wildly. There are some tenets of religious fundamentalism that the film tries to deal with thematically but it’s all a bit too far removed to pan out sufficiently, not offering any sort of satisfying conclusion.
Final Verdict: Never anything more than middling before its awkward and rather silly conclusion, We Are What We Are takes itself far too seriously for its own good and ends up a rather dull exercise in technical ability for its troubles.