We Are What We Are
Directed by Jorge Michel Grau
The New York Film Festival often offers films of…a certain type of prestige. Slow films, quiet films, films with subtle characters, or of a certain political ideology, and what not. Thus, with that being said, Jorge Michel Grau’s We Are What We Are is a refreshing diversion, a comically irrelevant horror film that may have some higher allegorical purpose, but in all honesty, is just damn good fun time (The film won Best Picture at the genre-oriented Fantastic Fest in Austin).
So what is the frightening element of Mr. Grau’s hypnotic film? It’s hard to tell at first. We see an old man, walking around a shopping mall, almost like a zombie. He coughs up black vomit, and collapses dead, and a team quickly and efficiently removes him and the mess with a quick pace as not to disturb anyone else in the mall. We then transfer back to the man’s family, a poor one made up of a mother, a daughter, and two competitive sons. They are in trouble they tell us. They need to perform the ritual before time runs out, which we can tell by the 100 ticking clocks scattered around their dilapidated home. And when a pair of detectives see the father’s dead body at the morgue, they learn a finger was in his stomach.
We Are What We Are follows cannibals, but not savage cannibals, but it is really a family tragedy story about the turmoil a family goes through without a patriarch. More than horror, this is a cruel family drama in which each member competes for the power void left in the wake of the father’s death. And Mr. Grau, with a wink to the camera, might shoot it in realist in harsh manner, but at least his score is right out of Hitchcock. The film’s gore is certainly cheesy and got a laugh out of me.
The film is certainly nowhere near perfect—a side plot following those corrupt detectives is worth more than a few groans—but the sheer trashiness and absurdity of We Are What We Are is easy to have fun with, in a film that is certainly indebted to films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Family comes first for the subjects of We Are What We Are, though more than a little blood gets spilled along the way.