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Originally published Thursday, October 10, 2013 at 3:05 PM

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‘We Are What We Are’ gives new meaning to ‘family dinner’

“We Are What We Are” is a gruesome portrait of a family with strange dietary inclinations, in a town with a history of disappearances.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie Review 3 stars

‘We Are What We Are,’ with Bill Sage, Ambyr Childers, Julia Garner, Jack Gore, Kelly McGillis, Michael Parks, Wyatt Russell. Directed by Jim Mickle, from a screenplay by Mickle and Nick Damici. 105 minutes. Rated R for disturbing violence, bloody images, some sexuality, nudity and language. Varsity.

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The Parkers, who live way out by the trailer park, are a rather strange family. Frank Parker (Bill Sage), devoted to his self-defined fundamentalist religion, keeps to himself; beautiful teenage daughters Iris (Ambyr Childers) and Rose (Julia Garner), their eyes perpetually red-rimmed, seem frightened of their own shadows; and Mrs. Parker ... well, she dies in town, blood gushing up from her throat as she drowns during a rainstorm, in shallow, muddy water.

We figure out, quickly enough, just what’s wrong with the Parkers in Jim Mickle’s creepily somber thriller “We Are What We Are”; they have, shall we say, a unique dietary ritual that explains the mysterious disappearances of so many people in their rural town. And the movie stays elegantly restrained just long enough for the true horror of what they’re doing to sink in. After their mother’s death, the girls must take over her “duties.” “What if we refuse to do it?” asks Rose, a spark of rebellion briefly igniting in her quiet eyes. “What if we just stopped?” But they can’t, and they don’t; even though most of the film isn’t particularly explicit, you may want to avert your eyes.

“We Are What We Are” throws off its restraint in the next-to-last scenes with a blood-drenched tableau that should keep gore fans happy, even as it approaches the darkest of comedy. But its final scene is artful and haunting, leaving us wondering whether these girls really can walk away from their past. Earlier, a handsome young deputy asks Iris out on a date, to a movie. “A movie?” she asks, quietly and incredulously, as if he’d invited her to do something unthinkably strange; it’s a terribly sad moment, reminding us how Iris and Rose are inexorably tangled in a life they didn’t choose.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or

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