Mexico City, a man collapses and dies. His family are understandably distraught. Particuarly as he was the provider of the human flesh on which they feed to survive. The idea of cannibals living smack bang in the middle of a city is fairly novel (does Delicatessen count?), as is the idea that it is exclusively human flesh that they require. Killing humans for necessity raises a different set of moral issues than sadism or insanity would.
The family, remaining unnamed, begins to unravel. Consisting of a confused, homosexual, older brother, a possibly incestuous younger brother and sister and a shrieking harridan of a mother it’s no surprise that their downward spiral is entirely of their own making. It’s hard to imagine what the now deceased father used to do to hold the unit together? Threaten to eat them? They have none of the charm of say, the Hooker clan in Near Dark and earn none of our sympathy accordingly. Any flashes of cleverness are undone by the ninety minutes available. Alfredo’s sexuality? The ritual continually mentioned? The cops? All vanish as soon as they appear, seeemingly just to allow for a mediocre and scare free shoot out and mini chase that take up the final fifteen minutes. The last minute is smarter than the previous eighty nine combined, briefly holding a mirror up to human nature before it too disappears.
We Are What We Are is a grubby, unpleasant, claustrophobic little film. Uninspiringly shot (dark) and clumsily edited (possibly due to a loose and flappy script that never nails the story to any sort of wall) it should be at least partially saved by horror’s usual escape hatch. Unfortunately it’s not nearly gory enough, the monsters are on display but their acts are barely hinted at. Perhaps ten to fifteen minutes of running time short, it’s over before it has any chance to build a sense of tension or a real sense of how this (hopefully) unique family exists. It’s not all doom and gloom though….
If the whole film is taken as a metaphor for the pressures and difficulties that mount up for a family living in one of the world’s genuine megacities then it would be a brave man who booked one way tickets to Mexico. Presumably, the only reason this film isn’t set in London is because everyone knows the residents there eat each other all the time. Even the title hints at a certain, inherently bad side to our nature that’s unavoidable and therefore excusable. Allegorically, this succeeds admirably in showing us the madness of overpopulation, the consumer lifestyle and intense city living. Unfortunately in it’s primary function as a film or a story it fails, being neither visceral enough to scare nor intriguing enough to hold the attention.