Jim Mickle is part of a generation of horror filmmakers doing something new: Rather than trying to make a quick buck with cheap copies, they reinvent and reinterpret classic themes.
“We Are What We Are,” a remake of a 2010 Mexican film of the same name, is sort of about cannibals, but also a family drama. His previous movie, “Stake Land,” was sort of a mix of vampires and zombies, but really about people in extreme situations.
Mickle and his co-writer Nick Damici only watched the original film only once before working on their screenplay. “There are some elements that we hung onto,” says Mickle. “I've spoken to people who saw both films and didn't even make the connection.”
Mickle wanted to set his story during a torrential downpour, but the skies were dry. To save money, production designer Russell Barnes built rigs using existing creeks and water sources. They also employed sprinklers and garden hoses.
“You're trying to get actors to do really emotional scenes, and then you call ‘action’ and these PAs start squirting them with a garden hose,” he laughs. “It's absurd what we put actors through.”
Mickle loved working with 6-year-old Jack Gore, too. “Kids have an awesome ability to play and be imaginative,” he says.
Gore had to play a scene in which a hand reaches out and grabs at him. The boy kept asking Mickle what the hand was going to look like. Finally, when the scene actually occurred, Mickle says, “He screamed and he ran out, and then he said, ‘That's not scary at all.’”
Movie buffs may recognize Kelly McGillis, star of the 1980s hits “Top Gun” and “Witness,” in “We Are What We Are” as well as “Stake Land.”
Mickle, looking for someone to play a nun in “Stake Land,” was having a hard time finding an actress in her 40s or 50s who didn't look like she was trying to look younger. When McGillis learned the shoot was only 20 minutes away from her house, she signed on.
“It was the least Hollywood shoot that she had ever been on, and I think she loved it,” he says.
Now the two are friends.
“We stay in touch,” he says. “We talk about gardening, about which mulch is better.”
IF YOU GO We Are What We Are
Starring Ambyr Childers, Julia Garner, Bill Sage
Written by Nick Damici, Jim Mickle
Directed by Jim Mickle
Running time 1 hour 45 minutes