WE ARE WHAT WE ARE
Reviewed by: Zombie Boy
Jorge Michel Grau
What's it about
When a family loses their patriarch, their dark secret threatens to tear them apart in this Mexican film about the long pork.
Is it good movie?
The wife and children of a downtrodden watch repairman are thrown into turmoil when they learn of his untimely death. The family lurches about in disarray, but one thing is for certain: they need to keep food on the table. Except in this case, that means human beings. The (unnamed) mother is an unstable harridan, which leaves sister Sabina to maintain the peace at home, which thus requires brothers Alfredo and Julian to go out and do the hunting for the meat needed for “the ritual.” Except they’re both bumbling, in their own respective ways, and ultimately bring the authorities down on their heads.
I have to say, until I sat down to write this review, I was pretty sure I didn’t like this film. On the one hand, Jorge Michel Grau’s first foray into feature films is definitely well shot, with lots of still, introspective camera work, and fine performances by the cast. On the other hand, I thought the film took too long to get to its point, and I still wasn’t even sure what that point was. Was it a dysfunctional family drama, or a film about a clan of cannibals, and why was it having such a hard time being both?
But when thinking about what I was going to say, it began to occur to me how the story was a metaphor for a country with precarious social and political systems, a category which Mexico would certainly fall into. When the father drops dead of poisoning, it leaves a power vacuum at home. Sensitive Alfredo is thrust into power, but wants to take things slowly, wait until the time is right to hunt, while younger Julian wants to just march into a crowd and start wailing on people. Sabina plays a sort of Eva Peron, ministering to Alfredo’s ego while tamping down Juan’s rebellious tendencies. And their preying on hookers and homosexuals, while the police only think of the case in terms of self-advancement, is no small bit of subtext, I am sure.
Which only leaves the mother, who represents the remaining faction of the old regime, who curses and rails at the newcomers, and wants only to keep things as they were. Viewed in that light, the film took on a new significance for me. If I were a more globally aware person, I would better be able to detail how the degeneration of a family of cannibals was used as a mirror for a similarly degenerating country, but hey, I just review movies, yannow? In the end, the casual horror fan will be pleased by the grim cinematography and the bits and bobs of violence and gore streaked throughout, while the more astute viewer who can peel back the layers will get a little more out of it.
Video / Audio
Video: The screener was cut just fine, and I had no problems with the photography. It’s gloomy, to match the subject, but never too dark to see what was going on.
Audio: No idea on the stats, but for the most part the sound was excellent. For some reason the foley work in certain scenes bothered me. Like when a group of prostitutes was on the march: their clacking heels were enough to drive me crazy.
We Are What We Are is more than a film about cannibals: it is a film about the degeneration of a family, while using both of those motifs to mirror problems occurring within Mexico’s social and political structures. While the movie tends to meander a bit, it is definitely well worth your time whether you are just looking for a grim movie about people eating people or like your horror with a more cerebral element.