Sunday, 27 March 2011

WE ARE WHAT WE ARE DVD review

Now on DVD and Blu-Ray is this drama about a family of Mexican cannibals, surviving after the death if their father. Watch the trailer and read my review, next...



Opening with a shot that's half American Werewolf and half Dawn Of The Dead, we follow a dishevelled man as he wanders through a shopping precinct before collapsing and dying in a pool of blood. As we get to know the family he's left behind, we soon learn their dark and shocking secret; they prey on the innocent and feast on human flesh, and with their father gone they must learn how to fend for themselves in order to satiate their hunger.


For a Mexican cannibal movie, there's only so much Mexican and not a lot of cannibal. Perhaps it says something about my mental well-being but I was eagerly anticipating this film, sure it would deliver a fair amount of gore in a deliciously bloodlust-fulfilling way... until someone pointed out to me the film has a rather disappointingly safe 15 certificate here in the UK. There is still some bone-crunching gore delivered, but the film ended up being a very different animal than I was expecting. In place of a vicious, satirical buffet of bodies we have a study of a dysfunctional family surviving through a traumatic experience.


The family are quite an understandably odd bunch, and following the death of the patriarch a power struggle ensues to decide who's going to be the family's new provider. Despite being heavily featured in the marketing the daughter doesn't actually get to do much, the film placing its focus primarily on the two teenage brothers. Conflicted but amoral to the core, the young brothers prey upon a gang of street urchins looking for food, unsympathetic to the plight of these abandoned children. The mother and elder brother become beasts of the night, stalking the dark and repulsive street-walkers and taxi-drivers that represent the darker aspects of society. These scenes are fairly reminiscent of George A. Romero's Martin, avoiding any hints of the supernatural and basing the film in cold, uncomfortable reality.


It is an interesting character study (particularly with the repressed sexuality of youngest son Alfredo and the somewhat inappropriate relationship going on between his brother and sister), but it fails to provide enough flesh-munching to satisfy horror fans. The hunt for victims is an interestingly vampiric experience (Alfredo's stalking of a young gay man has some obvious parallels with the practice of cruising), and we do find some sympathy for the hungry family as the villagers close in on their lair.


It's frustrating at times, lacking any real explanation as to why they're living this way. It's implied that the family have been forced to live this life ruled over by the Josef Fritzl-like father, but as we never see him with his wife or children it's not a concrete association we can make. There is talent on display from first time director Jorge Michel Grau, and although We Are What We Are delivers a much more complicated story then I initially expected, I think his best work is still ahead of him.

The English title (so frustratingly close to being You Are What You Eat) is in actual fact a statement of the film's complex morality, and has an interesting stance towards its flawed main protagonists. It may not provide as much cannibalism as you'd expect, but it's a unique entry into horror's crowded genre. 

Verdict

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