‘We Are What We Are’ (2010) Reviewed ★★★★★
There comes a great deal of dangers when dealing within the confines of genre conventions and genre labels. It is almost always impossible to escape these devices and usually unavoidable in descriptions. For these reasons, We Are What We Are has been labeled as Mexico’s cannibal horror film. An extremely blunt and, if I may, completely askew perspective. Showing off his directorial debut, Jorge Michel Grau entreats us with a film about the social structure of Mexico city with an intriguing metaphor in the life of its citizens. The generalizations often made about horror films are quickly ignored in this picture as we are given a refreshed view on what horror really is.
A reference that usually brings laughter amongst many people whom know of the occasion seems to be found within the incident of 1903’s The Great Train Robbery. Since cinema was in its extremely early stages, this being one of the first narrative pictures in release, audiences really had little to no expectations on what would happen screen-wise. Thus, the film’s last shot of a man firing a gun towards the audience left people jumping out of their seats, suffering heart attacks, or even being trampled on the ground for fear of actually withstanding a gun shot. Although a western, The Great Train Robbery serves as a fantastic example for the physicality horror brings to audiences. Despite how ridiculous the incident of 1903 might sound, this still happens today, although to a much less magnitude. Horror films of today, be them Asian or of any other culture, most usually cause jumps and gasps, requiring of their audiences a certain engagement. This is very interesting. Although cinema has been around for more than 100 years, we still find a solid connection between the two dimensional specks of light to our own three dimensional facets.
Now that I’ve given my backstory for some horror constructions, let’s move on to We Are What We Are. The setting of the picture takes place within the extremely violent and altogether dangerous Mexico city. We are in a country where 40-50 murders a day is of expectance, nothing out of the ordinary. Society has banded apart into tribes, gangs and groups. Survival of the fittest. People who do not fit into any tribes where they are protected, are eaten alive; a fittingly appropriate metaphor. We focus on a family whom have just lost their father from some type of unknown poisoning. Since he was the leader of the family, he was their primary hunter bringing in all of their victims. Living off a diet solely consisting of human flesh, they are at a loss for what to do and how to survive. Alfredo, the oldest son, must step up to the plate and leave his adolescence behind as he must, over night, become the leader and the hunter. They cannot live without their cannibalistic diet and performed rituals, therefore time is of the essence. A flaw of which We Are What We Are does not lay subject to is that of over-explanation. Most horror films fail due to their need for explanations and need for a physical reaction. However, this picture gives no explanations for the family’s background or their motives. They merely exist and we must accept that reality. The glimpses of gore and horror are slight, promoting offscreen action more than onscreen action, letting our imagination wander rather than letting our eyes wander. Jorge Michel Grau is making a film that clearly symbolizes the current state of his home country. We are shown a depiction of a corrupt land where the only way to survive is to feed off others.
Thank you for reading,
Omar Antonio Iturriaga
*: ‘http://blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist’: Interview with Jorge Michel Grau