Since 2006, Jim Mickle has slowly but surely been carving out a place for himself in the contemporary pantheon of indie horror filmmakers; his feature length debut, Mulberry Street, made for an auspicious start to his directorial career, while 2010's Stake Land showed a continued improvement in his craft and storytelling while freshening up the vampire genre at the same time.
Now, his next production, a remake of Mexican filmmaker Jorge Michael Grau's slow-burner We Are What We Are, and at a glance, Mickle's vision promises to be well shot and thoroughly creepy if nothing else.
He does deserve credit, though, for taking efforts to put his personal stamp on Grau's tale of an urban family of cannibals. Transplanting the action from Mexico to rural upstate New York, We Are What We Are focuses on the Parker clan whose matriarch dies following a terrible storm. Her passing places the responsibility of putting food on the table - literally - on the shoulders of eldest daughter Iris (Ambyr Childers). For Iris, that means capturing and killing human prey for dinner. Unfortunately for the Parkers, the local doctor (Michael Parks) grows suspicious about their eating habits and starts poking his nose where it isn't wanted.
Maybe changing one or two details about the setting and the plot - in Grau's film, it's the father, not the mother, who dies - isn't exactly reinventing the wheel, but the fact that Mickle isn't just recycling the original picture wholesale is appreciated. More important is the tone he appears to strike here based on the above footage: moody, atmospheric, and genuinely disturbing. Mickle's also given this a religious bent, it seems, though whether that's just a false impression from the clip or a genuine invention of his own is yet to be seen. Religion did play a role in Stake Land - whose star, Nick Damici, has a role here as the town sheriff - so maybe that guess isn't too far off.
Either way, of course, We Are What We Are looks incredibly unsettling. Early reviews speak favorably of the film - notably, the cinematography has received a lot of praise, and according to many, Mickle succeeds in sticking to the spirit of Grau's movie while making this one his own. Maybe We Are What We Are will push Mickle's career forward and get him more recognition than the excellent Stake Land did - we'll see later this year once the film gets its official release date.