The opening titles of John Water’s Cecil B Demented show a cinema entrance proudly announcing “Les Enfants dus Paradis, now dubbed into English.” While the habit of remaking acclaimed foreign films to make them more palatable to domestic audiences has been a long Hollywood habit generally derided by those who have no problem with subtitles and would rather experience a film in its original vision, it was not until the J-horror surge that genre films began to suffer the syndrome, but Spanish and Latin American films are now making the transition, [REC] and La Casa Muda being remade almost exactly as Quarantine and The Silent House. So why should a remake of the 2010 Mexican horror Somos Lo Que Hay be of any more interest to us?
Michael Flett – On the one hand, an American remake of a foreign language film should have me penning outraged editorials, especially a film which was so unique and brilliant where every last detail has been changed leaving only the basic premise and the titile.
On the other hand, the fact that everything has been changed might be what makes this work, that and the fact that it’s from Jim Mickle director of the utterly brilliant Stake Land, again from a script he co-wrote with Nick Damici. It’s almost like taking a one line suggestion and handing it to two different writers and seeing what they come up with; it’s not a remake, it’s a different film that just happens to have a common theme.
Unlike many remakes which just transpose the action to a new locale – and all too frequently simplify everything in the process of translation – this is a complete subversion of the original. Where before it was the father who dies leaving the mother with two sons, here we have the mother who dies leaving father with two daughters. While the original was sun drenched slums of Mexico City, here it is grey and wet and rural.
The colour palette is washed out, the feeling is of inescapable sadness. It’s not going to be a happy film about happy people. It’s good to see Damici is onscreen again as well as writing, and Mickle is an innovative technical director, getting a lot of mileage out of limited resources – that moment of the blood smeared on the glass is an image he used in Stake Land.
My fear is that the girls look too pretty, too wholesome, again a contrast to the original family who it was implied were inbred, but Mickle draws fantastic performances from his actors, and with Michael Parks as the coroner, so good in Kevin Smith’s surprising Red State, we are in for a treat. Although she’s not in the trailer, Kelly McGillis is listed in the cast, so it will be great to see her again.
Unfortunately, some of the best moments of the original – the son taking home a prostitute who the mother refuses to eat because she regards her as unclean, going hunting again and taking home a trick from a gay bar who his brother then refuses to eat – I can’t see translating into this version, but I have absolute faith that Mickle will give us something just as tasty in lieu of those.
I suspect it will not get wide distribution, as the subject matter is certainly niche, and nor does it look like it will play it safe with the bloody but ultimately shallow trends of modern horror, digging far deeper to the real meat, but hopefully word of mouth will carry it to those in the know. And if there are a few genuinely horrified audiences out there, so much the better.
Adam Dworak – I like the atmosphere. It’s like a more cerebral Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It reminds me of the Bill Paxton/Matthew McConaughey film Frailty, the feeling of isolated family, living by their own rules, not wanting the interference of outside, the children raised in a belief system outsiders wouldn’t understand.
I didn’t realise this was a remake – I’ve not seen it, but from what I know, I really think the story will work better in a rural setting, it seems more authentic, more believable that a family could become this. I also think it more believable that a father could have that power over his daughters than a mother over her sons
Jason Dautel – Micah (Jason’s partner) has seen the Mexican version of this film, and he loved it. The young woman in the American version, Miss Julia Garner, is an INCREDIBLE actress. She starred in an indie movie (available on iTunes) called Electrick Children as a pregnant, teenage girl who escapes an oppressive, polygamist compound to find herself homeless in Las Vegas. If you get the chance, watch it.
As for We Are What We Are, I couldn’t be more excited. I haven’t seen the original, but it seems that they may have switched the gender of a few characters in the American version. Also, Stake Land was brilliant and bleak, and I am so happy you loved it.
Josh Soriano – I was pleasantly pleased with Stake Land as well. I have been meaning to see the original of We Are What We Are for a year now. I’d have to see a different trailer for this remake, it’s a bit too vague. I understand they are trying to keep plot a mystery but it seems like they’re trying too hard to make it vague. I definitely want to see it though.
We Are What We Are was screened at both Sundance and Cannes and is released on 25th October