(The gist: We Are What We Are is a slow and unsuspecting movie that I doubted was horror in the beginning. However, it drew me in and proved to be worth the wait. It even reminded me of one of my favorite horror movies, Ravenous. Any movie that can tickle that nostalgia has won me over.)
When I was just a young horror novice, one of my first introductions to off mainstream horror was the movie Ravenous. I loved the movie then and could not even now objectively evaluate its quality (though I think it still holds up; my gothic belly dancing troupe seemed to think so when I introduced them to it). Ravenous holds a special place in my little, black horror heart.
When I say the movie We Are What We Are reminds me of Ravenous, this is a compliment. In my opinion, We Are What We Are shared several components with Ravenous, but for the sake of avoiding too many spoilers, I will say it was the pace and the style that brought up the nostalgia for me. Hopefully, that nostalgia does not bias my review too much.
We Are What We Are is about a reclusive family with a strict ancient dogma and doctrine. When the mother dies in the opening scene, the two daughters, Iris and Rose, have to take over some of her more unsavory roles within the family. A severe storm also threatens to expose their rituals to the community around them.
We Are What We Are is definitely a slow burn. I could easily say the beginning was downright slow. It took me a little while to get orientated in the story (because I was multitasking and because all the girl characters are similar-looking blondes). It definitely took me a while to figure out what was going on and get truly invested. For the first portion of the movie, I was largely confused (again, probably my own fault).
However, I was not bored; I was not deterred. Rather, I was intrigued.
The story baited me, drew me in by degrees. Of course, I had my suspicions about the family and their rituals from the beginning, but even the predictable remained engrossing. It became watching for confirmation, waiting to be shown if I was correct.
In the beginning, I questioned if We Are What We Are should be considered horror. The movie felt distinctly more suspense or even a mild thriller. Yet the horror was waiting, and when it made its debut, it was worth the delay. We Are What We Are builds up slowly and calmly, creating a contrast that allowed the disturbing elements and the gore to startle me.
The pace is slow, but I loved how that allowed to truly and richly develop the family and its defects. I was truly invested in the two daughters; I felt for them and cared what happened. That same slow pace amplified the horror when it did finally make an appearance.
In the end, I liked the movie. And I liked the ending too.