Rue Morgue contributors Charlotte Stear and Mike Beardsall weigh in on the opening night films at this year’s Toronto After Dark Film Festival.
We Are What We Are (USA)
Dir: Jim Mickle
Toronto After Dark kicked off last night with Jim Mickle’s latest, the highly anticipated We Are What We Are, a re-imagining of Jorge Michel Grau’s Mexican film of the same name. The plot follows a reclusive, poor, rural family that partakes in an unusual tradition: cannibalism. After a brutal storm results in a family tragedy, eldest daughter Iris (Ambyr Childers) finds herself responsible for the yearly ritual. But as the investigation of a number of missing people in the area brings the local authorities to their property, the lives of the family members begin to unravel.
The beautiful cinematography and stormy atmosphere of We Are What We Are pulls the audience into its desperate story. The tale is boosted by the outstanding performances of Childers and Julia Garner (as Rose) who say so much more with their actions and small glances than they ever could with words. Though We Are What We Are runs on a tad too long, it builds to a violent climax you won’t soon forget. Mickle established a unique and haunting style that whetted the appetites of genre audiences with his previous offerings Mulberry Street and Stake Land, but it is here that he truly cements it.
BOUNTY KILLER (USA)
Dir: Henry Saine
With its influences proudly on display, Bounty Killer is equal parts exploitation film and spaghetti western. After the world has been destroyed by wars between rival corporations, a group of individuals known as bounty killers hunt down the white collar criminals responsible for bringing about this global apocalypse. The film follows the world’s two best bounty killers as they track a sadistic CEO while avoiding suit-wearing cronies and skull-faced bandits.
Though not exactly horror, the gritty wasteland setting will appeal to genre fans and when the blood rains it pours. The over-the-top gore is only matched by the over-the-top action, which features some hilarious, fast-paced battles and even a car chase through the desert that definitely wouldn’t look out of place in any Mad Max film.
The biggest issue with Bounty Killer is that its pacing is much too rapid. While this can certainly work in an action film, it doesn’t quite mesh with director Henry Saine’s attempt to add in some deeper relationships between the characters. As a result, none of them really get the chance to be fully fleshed out and the connections just end up feeling awkward and forced. However, for all those wasteland warriors out there, Bounty Killer is still a must-see.