We Are What We Are takes a similar form to Dogtooth in presenting a darkly twisted tale from within a warped family unit. Just trade out the incest for some good old people-eating fun.
An impoverished man, aged and worn, collapses in a shopping mall of Mexico City after perusing the dummies of shop windows. Spewing blood and bile on to the floor beneath him – he dies, only to be cleared away by paramedics and cleaning staff. An autopsy reveals a human finger inside his stomach, though this doesn’t surprise the coroner who exercises a casual familiarity with partially consumed corpses. This was the father of a now leaderless family: his wife and her three children Alfredo, Julian and Sabina, must now fulfil the role of their former patriarch. This entails the execution of a furtive ‘ritual’ that accounts for the state of their deceased father.
Hailed as the ‘Mexican Let The Right One In’, WAWA deals with social issues within an extreme context. Where the former had focused on a young boy’s torment at the hands of school-yard bullies, this film deals with a family dynamic in the face of poverty and political disregard. With the fantastical element removed from the story, we are presented with a more feasible horror. The setting transforms from a snow-blanketed residential area to a more slum-like location that brings with it an inescapable darkness, interlaced with bouts of uncompromising gore.
Let The Right Juan In… Forgive me
The central theme of cannibalism is shown to be a product of circumstance for the family: delivered as psychologically understandable alongside the realistic relationships of the central characters. The explanation of the ritual is touched upon but not fully explained, fitting with the visual motif of doors closing on the camera – keeping the audience out. This exclusion from the story is assisted by a volatile sound design that becomes faint and inaudible for extensive periods of time.
The film’s master stroke comes from treating the horrific elements as casual and not cowering to spectacle. The title of the film prescribes a certain shamelessness to the characters – their actions born out of necessity. In this sense, the horror becomes grounded and is almost pushed into the background by the social trials of the family.
Not even in a pie or with a nice chianti…fuckin’ disgrace
Refusing to pander to the audience, We Are What We Are creates an intrigue that is ordinarily too contrived to be effective – utilising a lack of exposition to make the minimal that much more powerful.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a sip: when a door closes on the screen.
Take a sip: for every fatality.
Take a shot: when the standards of cannibals seem particularly high.