WE ARE WHAT WE ARE
Released: Out Now On DVD And Blu-Ray
Directed By: Jorge Michel Grau
Starring: Francisco Barreiro, Alan Chavez, Paulina Gaitan
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Language: Spanish, with English Subtitles
Reviewed By Ross Hughes Official HCF Critic
Even now, a good twenty minutes after the final credit rolled and the DVD stopped in my machine, I can not quite make out what I thought of this film. That may sound negative, a quick dismissal of the last 88 minutes, because lets be honest, you either like a film or not, but I was debating this through out the whole running time and still am, maybe I will reach the answer before I finish the last sentence of this review. Maybe I won’t, but at least you can say that We Are What We Are has left some lasting profound effect on me.
This Mexican film by new writer and director Jorge Michel Grau is not what I expected. For that I blame the marketing ploy that has made the DVD cover seem like a gore-fest shocker that will grab the viewer by their neck and won’t let go! Its so misleading that many will actually be very disappointed when watching because I really can not call this film an horror. This is more in tune of a family meltdown, a close unit breaking down from the inside in which we bare witness too, so for that, its more of a drama that at times, tips the horrific scales.
We start in Mexico, a lovely sunny day but the look is grim, the film feels dirty from the off, a stench of decay that you the viewer can smell coming from the screens. Its films with this outset that I can only help but admire, because when the film comes across like death just waiting to happen, then you know the director as already succeeded in making the experience uncomfortable. That death “just waiting to happen!” comes straight away when an old man keels over and dies in the Shopping Prescient, not before though vomiting some not very nice looking black stuff.
As his family await for their father to arrive home,, when news surfaces of a man’s death and the sudden realisation that it is their dad, the household are left with the knowing fact, their lives have changed forever. We quickly find out that the old man was the head of a family of Cannibals who were waiting for him to come home with their “fresh meat!”. These cannibals are not the folk you usually associate with these kind of films, with that I am thinking of those psychos from the Hills Have Eyes, but normal folk who could actually live next door. We have the pretty daughter Sabrina (Paulina Gaitan) the shy brother Alfredo (Francisco Barreiro) and the angry other bro Julian (Alan Chavez) who are left confused and afraid when they hear they father is dead and that their mother Patricia (Carmen Beato) will go on a sudden breakdown. Its Patricia who steals the show, an ugly character, a mother that no one would want, who bullies her young siblings of taunts of unworthy and with look of disgust, its this ugliness of a character that summons up the entire outlook of this horror, a film that does not care about giving the viewer some light at the end of the tunnel. Grau is only concerned about the the dark side of human nature, which of course is not a pretty one!
With the head of the household dead, Alfredo feels its his place to take over the leadership and bring the “meat to the table!” but his first try of a young boy goes drastically wrong and soon they target a bunch of “whores!” – phase used regularly in this film-as an easier target, and soon they are trawling through the Mexican Streets looking for Prostitutes.
Its very hard to relate to any of the characters in this piece. The film offers no sympathy, a one beacon of light that we can share this ride with, even the police are portrayed unlikeable, one scene that sums this up is when they are shown a finger found in a dead person and they sigh with an attitude when its suggested that the there are people within the city eating others! Too much hard work to be actually doing their jobs when they can just stand around and look the part!
One Positive is that Grau shows great restrain behind the camera. With a film of a cannibal nature you expect blood and gore to fly across the screen, especially in this day of age when gore-porn is seen as a must by film studios. We Are What We Are hardly shows the blood, which makes the attacks on the innocent more believable and realistic. This at times is not an easy watch and I must applaud Grau for not selling out to the horror crowd. In some ways doing it this way and with a dysfunctional family at the centre of the chaos, comparisons to Texas Chainsaw will begin to surface and I could see at times that Grau must have been influenced by that Tobe Hooper original. Also Let Me Right One In hangs over this like a dark cloud. For some reason, even though they differ in tone, the two films share the same trick of making a horror subject look like everyday life, even though the harsh plot of this film will not find the same love and audience that the Swedish Masterpiece has managed to gain!
So why am I still debating about how I feel about this film?
Maybe its just that term ugliness that makes me question my liking for this film. The way the family targets Prostitutes, sorry, “whores” and then Homosexuals left a sour taste in the mouth! I just found that an easy target, When one of these “whores!” are begging for their life and saying that “they can fuck her instead of killing her!” the film for a moment glorifies the whole “bad woman must get punished!” that loses the film its edge. I quite liked the horrific idea at the start when they targeted young children, not that I want to see young kids die, but the thought of this happening made me on edge while feeling very uncomfortable and if this movie wanted to stand out different, it would have been better to do it this way than go down the path of “whores” then “homosexuals!”, even though the gay angle does have a hidden subtext when it comes to one character!
Even now while I am finishing up this review I am still thinking of this movie. If you are looking for a Cannibal film for entertainment purposes, then put this DVD down, take a WRONG TURN and take a glance over the HILLS with your EYES, because this film is nothing like you want it to be. Its of a family under pressure who just want to eat people! Its dark and dirty and not very pleasing and while I have decided to award this three stars, I won’t be too surprised if those at HCF may award it one more.
[pt-filmtitle]We Are What We Are[/pt-filmtitle]