We Are What We Are (2010)

tn_wearewhatWE ARE WHAT WE ARE (Somos lo que hay) is a one of a kind horror movie out of Mexico. Well, it was one of a kind until they just did an American remake, but it sounds like they changed things up for that one anyway.

The story in the original begins with a man stumbling through an upscale outdoor shopping center, coughing up blood and dying on the pavement, and nobody trying to help him. He kinda seems like he might be homeless, but he’s not. He has a wife and three kids to not come home to.

Obviously it seems like a tragic situation for this hard working family. The brothers, Alfredo (Francisco Barreiro) and Julian (Alan Chavez), have to go man their dad’s table at the market. Their sister, Sabina (Paulina Gaitan), has to stay home and fill in for him repairing watches and clocks. But I knew going in, and you probly do to, that there are other duties they’re gonna have to fill in for when they figure out their dad is dead. They need somebody for “the ritual” tomorrow. And not a volunteer. And not a person that is gonna stay alive for the ritual. And not a person that is not gonna be cooked and eaten as meat for the ritual. Because the ritual is to eat human flesh. They will be kidnapping a person and eating that person and that is what the ritual is. I’m not sure if I’ve made this clear. These guys are cannibals is what I’m getting at. That is the titular “what we are” that they are. And I’m against it personally but that’s what the movie is about so what are you gonna do.

mp_wearewhatSo the movie’s largely about these rookies trying to learn how to continue the family tradition, and findint out it’s harder than it looks. I’m not even talking about the cooking, which I’m sure is difficult, and you’re not gonna get much help from cookbooks or the internet, I’m guessing. The part they have trouble with though is the shopping for ingredients.

They try to kidnap a street kid that hangs out under the freeway, that should be an easy bet, right? But they almost get beat up by the other street kids. They do successfully kidnap a prostitute, but they get spotted and chased by the other prostitutes and barely get away. They plan to dress her up in Sabina’s clothes so Mom (Carmen Beato) won’t know she’s a hooker, but she figures it out anyway and gets all snooty about it, refusing to eat whore meat. These fuckin foodies, I tell ya.

It’s easy to imagine this all played as dark comedy, but I like that they took the path less traveled. It’s just very uncomfortable. Most movies would also make the Mom force the tradition on them, the old idea of the oppressive mother (PSYCHO, DERANGED, DON’T GO IN THE HOUSE, FRIDAY THE 13TH maybe) or the evil passed down to the next generation (THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, THE FUNHOUSE). This lady is a scary ball-buster, but she doesn’t push them into killing. She actually discourages it, but not in a loving way, more in a shitty parenting way. She derides Alfredo for trying to lead the family, criticizes their attempts to fill in for their father, and tells them their family is doomed.

It’s not a movie with a high opinion of humanity. Alfredo is the most sympathetic member of the family, because he’s the most put-upon, but he doesn’t have a conscience at all, he doesn’t even seem to feel guilty about killing people. Sometimes I wondered if Sabina wanted out, but she’s very manipulative and pushes Alfredo into the leadership role, sort of guilting him into doing these kidnappings. Also, she’s fucking her brother Julian, who’s very jealous of his more sensitive older brother. He prides himself on being able to abuse prostitutes better, and when they tie one up he starts groping her. Those are the types of ethical disagreements they have in this family: whether or not it’s okay to sexually assault their abductee before eating her.

Meanwhile, the characters outside of the family aren’t exactly saints. A pair of loser cops find out from the coroner (Daniel Gimenez Cacho – I didn’t pick up on this, but the internet tells me this is the same coroner character from Guillermo Del Toro’s CRONOS) that papa had a human finger in his stomach, and we occasionally come back to them as they try to prove that Mexico City has a cannibal problem. You might assume they’re fighting for justice in a corrupt system or that they’re underdogs on the force trying to prove themselves, but it’s pretty clear that they just want to solve this case because it would make them famous.

The most intense sequence is the one where Alfredo makes eyes with a young gay man on the bus. He decides to follow him, and it’s a long drawn out pursuit all around the city, on streets, on subways, into a club. He’s nervous as hell, almost backs out, doesn’t know how to behave when the guy starts talking to him. You don’t know if he’s discovering that he’s gay or if he just knows this is a chance to find a victim. The answer turns out to be the most tragic one: both.

This is a different type of horror movie, it doesn’t have the same type of thrills I usually look for in the genre, but it makes up for it with really complicated characters and relationships. I dig it. Definitely worth watching.

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12 Responses to “We Are What We Are (2010)”

  1. Didn’t read the review; just clicked on the Amazon link and ordered it. After Mulberry Street and Stake Land, I’d follow the team of writer/director Jim Mickle and writer/actor Nick Damici ANYWHERE. Add Michael Parks and (yes, whodathunkit?) Kelly McGillis into the mix, and you’ve got a motley crew recipe for success.

    Added to which, they’ve got Cold In July coming down the pike in 2014, which also stars Michael C. Hall, Vinessa Shaw, Don Johnson, and Sam Shepard. I hope that means the Mickle/Damici team is steppin’ up in the movie world. For all their talent thus far, they’re still well under the radar.

    Vern, I hope you put Mulberry Street and Stake Land on your to-do list of future reviews. They’re both well-made, somber, intelligent movies that skirt the edge of horror. Good times.

  2. the eerie thing about this movie is the believability of it, Mexico has a history with this sort of thing (the Aztecs and whatnot) and the modern day drug Cartels like to do things like torturing men to death, severing their heads and their genitals and leaving the severed heads with the penises stuffed into their mouths in public places for people to find

    Mexico is a fucked up place is what I’m saying and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to learn there’s cannibal cults there

  3. Griff— I think you’re confusing your supposed Mexican “personas comiendo personas” (people eating people) tendency, if there is one at all, with certain obscure tribal peoples in South America. Then again, maybe they’ve acquired a taste for gringo meat and don’t eat their own. I didn’t read Vern’s review, so I cannot fully comment with utmost responsibility.

    No doubt Eli Roth’s latest twisted magnum opus The Green Inferno will address this in all its gory, gnarly detail….. and Mr. Majestyk will give us a full report. He damn well better.

    Just on a hunch, I’m guessing human flesh is NOT one of those things that is described as tasting “just like chicken”.

  4. I once asked my biology teacher about the nutrition value of human flesh. He didn’t know.

  5. Vern, thanks for these horror reviews. I don’t think I’d have had movies like this one, HIGHWAYMEN, and the latest Chucky on my radar otherwise. Are you gonna review the U.S. remake too? I wonder if the U.S. distributors/producers considered calling it WE ARE WHAT WE EAT. Or too obvious?

  6. From what I understand is that The Green Inferno is filled with the same annoying, douche bag characters that permeate all of his movies. Is it possible for Eli Roth to ever make a different movie than the same one he keeps making over and over?

  7. Surely whether Knox sacrificed someone to the Dark Lord Satan during an orgy or not is completely irrelevant. Satanism is a religion like any other and I for one think that it’s disgusting that the authorities in this case willfully encroached upon her rights to practice her religion as she see’s fit.

    We might not understand or practice the Dark Arts ourselves but I believe that in the name of tolerance we all have a responsibility to safeguard the rights of others to believe and/or do whatever crazy shit they want for as long as they remember to call it a religion.

    The amount of hate Satanism gets really has gotten out of all proportion and I implore all of you to take a good long look in the mirror and ask yourselves how those few hundred people sacrificed to beelzebub each year compare to all the thousands lost in Iraq/Afghanistan.

    That’s what I thought – Not so cut and dry, is it?

  8. fuck, sorry wrong thread.

  9. The Original... Paul

    October 27th, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    Wow, this sounds really interesting. Thanks Vern, might check it out.

  10. Hey, it’s cool to see some of my past recommendations popping up on the horror list this year. Yeah, I really liked this movie. I probably would have got more out of it if I knew more about Mexican culture, but I saw it as a critique of harmful and deeply hypocritical cultural traditions that survive in isolated bubbles and are passed on from generation to generation. I liked how the kids weren’t pushed into it by external forces; they felt obligated to carry on the family tradition, even if they were deeply conflicted about it. The bone-deep cynicism and humourlessness of it all probably won’t appeal to everyone, but it did to me.

  11. For me, the genius of SOMOS LO QUE HAY is that the cannibalism isn’t some grotesque end in itself, like in TEXAS CHAINSAW; cannibalism in this film is just a symptom of the greater horror of grinding poverty and hopelessness depicted in the film. They take such pains to articulate the psychological aspects of what the killers are going through. Notice how the family chooses victims who are even more marginalized than they are; against a backdrop of institutional corruption and incomeptence, the whole “coming of age” aspect of the film takes on horrible prophetic implications.

    Definitely one of the rare examples where explaining the backstory of the killers works to the films advantage.

  12. I just watched this movie, and at first I tought it was going to be something… really… I don’t know, like, a blood-gore movie, but it turned out to be a really interesting movie, with a lot of interpretations that happens in a mexican family where the father leads, and the mother does what he says… however, I found it fascinating, it has a really well done mixture between blood and violence (not only the phisical, but the psicological). I just like this movie a lot, it’s a great movie, a great mexican move (thought I don’t enjoy all mexican production, but it’s not like I hate my country.)

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