Talk about a dysfunctional family.
An unstable mother who enjoys obsessively shredding cloth and lives in a house full of ticking clocks, set to different times no less. An insanely creepy sweater-wearing ‘sensitive’ older brother who blubs a lot. An ever creepier sister who lurches around in a nightgown. A horny younger brother with anger issues who resembles a young Anthony Kiedis (Yes, I kind of fancied the teenage cannibal.)
Oh yeah, I guess that’s the main thing that makes them so strange. They enjoy chowing down on human flesh.
(What is it with me and cannibals this week!? Is it a bit wrong that I went in search of more after Cannibal Holocaust?)
Directed by Jorge Michel Grau, We Are What We Are is set in rundown Mexico City, and it sure paints a grim picture of it. Prostitutes pop up continuously throughout the film and violence is rife. As the undertaker who discovers a human finger in Daddy cannibal puts it: “It’s unbelievable how many people are eating each other in the city.”
After Daddy cannibal (who was clearly the breadwinner) dies, the remnants of this flesh-feasting family have to learn how to find food on their own. Their cannibalism appears to be less about physical sustinence (although creepy sister does rub and gnaw on a victim’s naked thigh in a perverse sexual manner at one point) and more about the bizarre family rituals that mother seems so desperate to continue. This is where the ticking clocks come in; the next ritual is due.
They do have some morals. That or they’re just picky eaters. For example, Mummy cannibal refuses to eat ‘whores’. When her sons come home with a prostitute in tow, she butchers the girl and then drives back to where they found her, before hurling the dead body at the other prostitutes in a fit of rage. Not the wisest of moves, as we discover later.
For horror lovers, the gore is sparse but when it comes it’s the sound effects that make it. Sounds of squelching and squeezing flesh are much more effective in getting the audience heaving than any blood-soaked vision. The incessant creepy music of erratic strings only adds to the creep factor.
The film is by no means brilliant. There are more than a few holes in the plot and though it attempts to delve psychologically into the familiy and their troubles it never quite gets there. Themes of homosexuality and incest are flirted with briefly but never developed. In fact, not much information is developed. The bumbling policemen who try to catch the cannibals are a pointless attempt at a humorous subplot. But all that said I can’t deny that We Are What We Are held my attention. The characters may have been checking their clocks but I never checked mine (See what I did there!?).
For me, it’s the final scene that makes it. I’ll refrain from divulging any information but I’ll just say this: it’s bloody brillant black comedy.
Check out the trailer here.