The Direct to Video Connoisseur
I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.
Monday, August 11, 2014
We Are What We Are (2013)
After Jamie and I did Puncture Wounds, which I didn't see as the best thing ever, and considering on top of that our first film was Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark, I wanted to give Jamie the opportunity to pick the film for our podcast (I know, how magnanimous of me!), and after a false start with a film that Jamie chose and decided to pull the plug on, she chose this one. Also on the podcast episode we had long-time friend of the blog Mitch from The Video Vacuum, who not only discussed the film with us, but also discussed the new book he has out about his blog, The Best and Worst of the Video Vacuum, which you can go here to buy. You can get it through Amazon in both papaerback and Kindle. Definitely worth checking out.
We Are What We Are is about a family in rural Ohio who own a trailer park and are having trouble making ends meet. When the mother dies in a tragic accident, it's up to the two teen daughters in the family to become the women in the family, and that includes making the family meals. At the same time, there has been a series of missing women in the area, one of whom is medical examiner Michael Parks's daughter. After a huge rain storm floods the area and washes away some of the soil, Parks discovers a human bone, and gets suspicious. Could it be linked to the family and their family meals?
This is an interesting one. From a horror standpoint, it's not goofy, it's not overly gory, yet it has some punch too, it's not just all suspense and leaving things to the imagination. I don't want to throw around cliche terms like "Hitchcockian", but there are a lot of great elements like that in here, great shots, great scenes that build the suspense, and even though we know what's going to happen before it happens, there's still enough "what's going to happen next?" to make this work well. Also, compared to a Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark, this is no afterthought, no rush job either, this is competently and earnestly made, which I think has to count for something. The key for me is two things: first, it's about 15-20 minutes too long, which doesn't sound like a lot, but in a movie can be a big drain; and second, this is not a horror film for everyone, in fact, I don't think it's a horror film for all horror fans. I think if you read this review, and you listen to the pod, and this sounds like the kind of film you would enjoy, go check it out; otherwise, you may want to skip it.
Jamie loves this film, and I can totally see why. It does a great job of not hitting you over the head with horror, but at the same time having some crazy, horror scenes that makes this more than just all subtlety. For me what I loved was how it combined the elements from the great Hitchcock films of the 50s and 60s, while at the same time had those 80s horror elements that I look for when I see "horror" listed as the genre. Also, this is story driven, yet at the same time, other than being 15 minutes long, it doesn't get bogged down in the story. Most of the scenes add to the tension, and there are very few moments where we're like "why aren't you killing someone? I'm watching a horror film for God's sake!", which I think is important when a horror director asks us to put our faith in him or her to go with them in a film like this. Again, the key is, do you want to go with the film maker on this trip? Do you want a change of pace in your horror flicks?
Michael Parks is as good as ever in this. His role is not a leading part, though he is the driving force in discovering how our family is involved in all the area killings. Whether Parks is doing bad material, like in Wicked, or working with something more earnest like he is here, he delivers the same great, professional performance. What I love about him in a film like this is that he adds that level of legitimacy that it needs simply by being him. Maybe another character actor would mail it in in the same position, but he doesn't, and that means a lot in a lower-budget indie movie.
Among the other actors in the film, we had Kelly McGillis of Top Gun fame. I think it's great to see her here after all the these years, and I know she's been doing other stuff recently too, so that's great too. The family were all great actors as well, between the daughters, Ambyr Childers and Julia Garner, and the father, our villain, played by Bill Sage. All of them were nominated for Chainsaw Awards for their performances, and Julia won at the Austin Fantastic Filmfest.
One of the things we discussed in the pod, is the role the DTV market will play in our future as film fans. Not only that, but Netflix Instant and the ability to stream these films on our computers or TVs relatively easily. Other than the Riff Trax Sharknado, I haven't been to the theater in a long time, but can I see any of the modern major release horror films delivering what this film delivered?-- and I didn't even consider this to be a total home run. Growing up, the video store played a very important role in my movie fandom, and especially my horror movie fandom; but the movie theater can't be discounted either. Whether we were getting signed in by our parents, or later when I was old enough to see them on my own, there was something about the horror film in the theater that you can't replicate on a computer or TV as much as you try. But if all I get is Paranormal 33 and 1/3 or Saw XVI, I don't really have much choice. I don't know if this is the kind of movie that gets me back in the theater, but the fact that what's out there now is markedly worse than this, is troubling.
For me this is one to see, but, again, just know it's not your average horror film, and if what you read here isn't piquing your interest, I would skip it. On the other hand, if you're looking for something different, and you have some time to kill, you could do a lot worse this one on Netflix Instant. I want to thank Mitch again for being on the show, and remember, you check out his book, the Best and Worst of the Video Vacuum, on Amazon now. As far as us, you can listen to Jamie and I do the DTVC Podcast every Wednesday live from 8-9pm EDT at www.mixlr.com/2nd-unit, and you can download our five most recent episodes from the RSS feed on the site, or our archives at http://www.talkshoe.com/tc/134494.
For part one of the episode, right click here and select "save link as", and for part two (the last 15 minutes) right click here.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2309021/