We Are What We Are

a film by Jorge Michel Grau

A family loses their father. Their bread winner. Their food provider. Now this man's widow and his three teenage children must fend for themselves. They must find their own food to survive. They must become their own providers. No, this is not some family living in olden times nor in the mountains or backwoods. This is modern day Mexico City. The slums and projects of Mexico City. There is no need for this family to hunt like starving animals, but hunt they must, for this is a family of cannibals.

Putting a rather unique spin on the zombie genre, We Are What We Are, directed by first time feature filmmaker Jorge Michel Grau, and full of disturbing psychosexual head games and a streak of dark and wicked humour, is a film that begins slowly and questioningly and builds, like a sick and twisted crescendo, to a wild bloodletting penultimate climax full of demented behavior and and an abundance (appropriately so) of gore. The poster is emblazoned with the quote (from David Hayles of The Times) "Does for Cannibals what Let the Right One In did for Vampires". Perhaps a bit purposely quotish but a true statement nonetheless - that is if anyone sees this tiny, sadly overlooked little movie from south of the border.

As far as the aforementioned head games and dark humour go, We Are What We Are plays out more like last year's Dogtooth than any other film of recent memory. The forced seclusion, the all-powerful parental control, the bewildering sexual desires and hunger (different kinds of hunger but hunger nonetheless), the matter-of-factness of the situations (“You’d be amazed how many people eat people in this city," is a comment made my a morgue technician midway through the movie), the unknowing future, the inevitable downfall - all remind one of Giorgos Lanthimos' Dogtooth. That film had a different cadence of strangeness and this one is a darker tale (at least on the outside) but the horrors of family and survival remain as the crux of both.

The family here (the father dies in the opening scene) is the bewildered mother, the elder but psychologically weaker son, the younger, hotheaded son and the sultry daughter who tries to manipulate both brothers for the good of the family. It is she, and her quietly innocence-seeming culpability, that acts as psychological focal point for the movie. We know none of this can end well (trust me, a fairy tale is not coming) yet we cannot take our riveted eyes away from the screen as everything slowly builds to that aforementioned and quite inevitable crash in the final act. Then there is that final shot (quite reminiscent of the final shot of Psycho) that leaves a frozen chill up your back long after the screen goes black. [05/09/11]