Tradition and religion can be a dangerous combination when allowed to continue long after they were necessary.  We Are What We Are, a remake of a 2010 dark comedy, approaches a horrific family ritual with a Gothic feel.
Heavy storms in Delaware prove tragic for the Parker family.  When the mother Emma Parker (Kassie DePavia) has an accident and drowns, the rest of the Parkers grieve -- and continue.  Patriarch Frank Parker (Bill Sage) insists that their ways continue, with older teen daughter Iris (Ambyr Childers) taking over the role of her deceased mother.  14-year old Rose (Julia Garner) wants to rebel and just stop the tradition, while little boy Rory (Jack Gore) keeps complaining that he's hungry.  The traditions seem to stem from a late-18th century family journal, which describes what early settlers did to survive when starvation was rampant in winter.

Meanwhile, the elderly Doc Barrow (Michael Parks) thinks the storm has washed up a small human bone -- and notes three people a year have gone missing for 30 years -- including his daughter -- but the sheriff won't take him seriously.  Barrow turns to Deputy Anders (Wyatt Russell) for help, but Anders is sweet on Rose.  And more people keep disappearing.
We Are What We Are goes for more atmosphere than shock, which is both a strength and weakness.  Most of the movie skips the more common horror movie shocks and gore (which makes the brutality at the end even more surprising) in favor of a quiet build-up of the small-town horror.  This creates an atmosphere of dread, but also makes the movie a bit boring at times.  The conflict between older tradition and the rebellion of the young is put in a horrifying contrast here, though it's not explored too much.  And the "surprise" of the family tradition isn't that surprising, given all the hints and signs.  We Are What We Are isn't the greatest treatment of this topic, but its restraint and development make it a decent descent into horror.  (DVD extras are very sparse, consisting of interviews, commentary, and a behind-the-scenes feature.)

Overall grade: B-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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