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We Are What We Are Review


Mexican Director and Writer Jorge Michel Grau firmly etches his own mark into the horror genre with his impressive first feature...

We Are What We Are (2010)

Wandering around like a zombie attempting to touch dummy breasts through a shop's window, the breadwinner of a family of cannibals starts coughing up vile black liquid. Dying of a heart attack outside a swanky shopping centre, his body is promptly dragged away and the mess below cleaned up. His family are left to fend for themselves which isn't easy when they are evicted from their market stall pitch where they mend watches and have never had to hunt for their meals.

After the initial wave of shock and despair, the remaining family deliberate over what must be done, all agreeing that food must be found for the next day. Their father was addicted to whores, but their mother refuses to eat prostitutes - even to the point of making a risky return of a prostitute's corpse as a warning to the others to leave her family alone, rather than take a bite. After failing to grab homeless children by the bridge, Alfredo, the oldest son, takes matters into his own hands but finds equally fussy tastes within the family: “I'm not eating a fag”. Meanwhile a finger with a painted fingernail is found inside their father's corpse, arousing suspicion.

We Are What We Are is described as horror but is more a fascinating study of one family's power struggle. As the oldest, Alfredo (Francisco Barreiro) is deemed the most capable, sensitive and balanced, and oddly accepts his new role; but his argumentative younger brother Julian (Alan Chávez) is less willing to hand over the baton. A quick-thinker, clumsy, violent and deceiving, like his mother Julian isn't interested in subtlety, whereas, his sister, Sabina (Paulina Gaitan), is perhaps the most controlling, possibly even more influential than the matriarchal mother.

Although they're all presented with a sinister “problem”, describe themselves as “monsters” and have a somewhat disturbing diet, one of the most effective elements of We Are What We Are is the way Grau presents them as a normal family trying to move on with their lives not very successfully attempting to continue their previous existence.

The police aren't interested in solving older cases and are depicted as corrupt - contemplating bribery and pocketing objects from a crime scene. Although murder scenes are brutal and include loud butchering noises and far-flung blood spats, the family's united killing effort is more like watching a pack of wolves attack their prey than a group of psychopathic killers. An ex-train busker's haunting song perfectly summarises the apathetic attitude that the film's protagonists seem to share with the grubby world they live in: “I don't care about suffering...”

The cinematography is at times artistic but never atmospheric - Grau merely presents events as if We Are What We Are is a disturbing factual account. The family's past history remains a complete mystery, and there are plenty of unanswered questions to keep the little grey cells ticking over. Although hints are made about “shakes”, Grau taunts viewers by refusing to reveal what will happen if his leads don't get 'food' the next day, and never elaborates on what the infamous 'ritual' really entails.

Billed as a horror, We Are What We Are is more of a thrilling family drama about survival, matriarchy, responsibility, desire and sexual power. Brave, chilling, uncompromising and punishing right up to its sinister end, We Are What We Are questions who the tragic victims of one family's traditions really are.

5 stars

We Are What We Are is released in the UK on Friday, November 12th

Director/Writer: Jorge Michel Grau
Artificial Eye
Running Time:
90 mins
Francisco Barreiro, Alan Chavez, Paulina Gaitan, Carmen Beato, Jorge Zarate, Esteban Soberanes


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#1 RE: We Are What We Are Review Grace 2010-11-10 17:59
I misread the title as "We are what we review" several times, which drove me mad for a minute trying to figure out just what you were reviewing. :P

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