Sunday 20 March 2011

Today's Review: We Are What We Are

When some of the lesser known movies get delivered to Blockbuster, it can really be hit and miss. I used to snatch up anything that looked remotely interesting, but i've become more discerning over the last few months as I've spent far too many hours watching complete and utter shit. This week, We Are What We Are came in, with blurb at the top of the case touting "A cannibal gore-fest". "Oh great" I thought, "another torture porn movie", until I turned over the case and realised it was in Spanish. Suddenly I was interested. Most of the crap I've been watching are American horror movies with all gore and no substance, but all the new horror movies I've seen in recent years, Let The Right One In, Rec, The Orphanage, have all been great.

Sadly, We Are What We Are isn't great. But it's not bad either. The plot focuses on a family of cannibals in Mexico, whose father dies suddenly and leaves them with the responsibility of claiming victims to put on the table, and the gruesome chore is passed onto the sons. This movie is as much about coming of age and the grieving process and everyone's eventual adaptation to their new roles as it is about horror, perhaps even more so.

The blurbs on the cover are basically lies. This movie is in no way a "gore-fest", neither is the gore particularly shocking by today's American standard. For the first hour there's hardly any blood at all, and the violence that happens afterwards is quite understated and more expressed through sound than imagery. It's sad that this is actually a break from the norm of horror movies, because focusing less on how much dismemberment you can show and instead focusing on characterisation and suspense is what horror should be about. You want to feel for the characters, not wonder in which gruesome way they're going to die.

With the inordinate amount of time spent on the killers, you do indeed feel for them. The characters' transitions aren't easy, there are many arguments within the family, but never is their hunger for human flesh thrown into question, they're just carrying on with their normal behaviour. One thing I noticed throughout was that they never actually mention eating the victims, they're always "picking something up for tomorrow", like normal family dinner conversation, or preparing for "the ritual". Well, maybe not quite normal.

Overall, the movie goes quite slowly. Not too much happens in the first hour, and the culmination of the plot is largely crammed into the final 20 minutes, featuring probably the shortest and most effective police investigation i've seen before (apparently there's a specific code the Mexican police have memorised for "people trying to eat a dude"). All in all, it's nothing particularly special, but in the midst of the cornucopia of gore filles torture movies, it's a breath of fresh air to see a movie focusing more on the people involved, especially if those people are the monsters. Maybe it's the effect of all the other over the top movies desensitising me to any kind of violence, but I did find it a bit boring for my liking, but watching the family's reaction to and acceptance of the father's death was quite unique. It's been a while since i've empathised so much with a murderer. Except for Dexter, he's just awesome.

My rating: 3/5

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