The best horror films build their scares around atmosphere and tone, and We Are What We Are deftly balances the two to counter its horrifying premise. The Parker family seems normal to most of the people in their small town, but something’s obviously wrong when their mother coughs up blood outside of a convenience store and dies. At first, due to the torrential storms and flooding occurring in the area, the police believe that she drowned; only when they start to investigate and do an autopsy do they realize what was going on inside her body. The film’s best enjoyed if you are unfamiliar with where the plot heads, and Mickle’s beautiful, quiet direction lends itself wonderfully to the film’s central theme. The main performances by the three lead actors are quite impressive as well, particularly in the film’s final half hour. This becomes a terrifying film, using its gorgeous cinematography to counter the horrors and violent acts we see on screen. This is a remarkably compelling artistic venture into naturally unartistic narrative depths; it’s the best horror film of the year.

Grade: ★★★½ (out of 5)

Note: this is one of a few films I saw at the Scottsdale International Film Festival, so reviews are shorter than ones for commercial releases.

Written by Eric Forthun