Revisiting Toronto After Dark 2013: We Are What We Are

In celebration of the 10th anniversary of Toronto After Dark, I will be revisiting one film from each year of the festival. Please be aware that these discussions may include SPOILERS.

Toronto After Dark made a major transition in 2013, as the festival left its longtime home of the Bloor Cinema and relocated to the Scotiabank Theatre in downtown Toronto. The highlights from this year of the festival include the Indian revenge fly film Eega, Bobcat Goldthwait’s found footage bigfoot film Willow Creek, and the zombie drama The Battery, which won that year’s audience toward. The film that I am revisiting from the 2013 edition of Toronto After Dark is the opening film We Are What We Are, directed by Jim Mickle.

We Are What We Are is a remake of the 2010 Mexican film of the same name and it is Jim Mickle’s follow-up to his 2010 vampire drama Stake Land, which was a Midnight Madness selection at the Toronto International Film Festival. Mickle also has a history with Toronto After Dark, since his 2006 film Mulberry Street previously played at the festival.

We Are What We Are is one of those films, in which it is hard to gauge what exactly constitutes a spoiler. Namely this pertains to the “Lamb’s Day” ritual performed by the central family in the film. When I first saw the film, I was already away that the central ritual involved cannibalism, even though it’s quite apparent that this is something that the film wants to progressively reveal over the course of the running time.

Of course, ultimately the cannibalism aspect of We Are What We Are is merely an element of what is ultimately more a dark family drama than a horror film. The film is built around the complicated dynamic between stern family patriarch Frank (Bill Sage) and his two daughters Iris (Ambyr Childers) and Rose (Julia Garner). With the family’s cannibalistic nature on the verge of being discovered by Doc Barrow (Michael Parks), tensions are at their highest.

Probably one of the most unsettling moments of We Are What We Are involves Frank’s young son Rory (Jack Gore), who is seen sucking on (then biting) the finger of kindhearted neighbour Marge (Kelly McGillis), before creepily saying “I’m hungry.” That small moment is ultimately much more terrifying than the actual climax of the film, where Iris and Rose resort to eating Frank alive.

While I will say that I liked We Are What We Are, it is a very slow paced film and it is definitely much more of a drama than a pure horror film. However, the same can be said about all of Jim Mickle’s films, with him having a very unique view of these horrific premises.

Sean Kelly Author

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).