We Are What We Are (Somos Lo Que Hay) (2010)

Starring: Paulina Gaitan, Francisco Barreiro, Adrián Aguirre

Directed by: Jorge Michel Grau

Rating: 1 2 3 and a half

Paulina Gaitan and Francisco Barreiro in We Are What We Are

Somos Lo Que Hay (We Are What We Are) begins with a shambling old man collapsing outside a department store and choking to death, only to be swept up ceremoniously by the mall's cleaning crew.

This man, we discover, is the head of a family who inhabit a dark, ramshackle house in the slums of a grimy city in Mexico. Now his harassed wife and three stroppy teenage children must forage for themselves in order to fulfil the bizarre ritual that fuels their lives. Yup, that'll be cannibalism. But with two (somewhat comic) policemen on their trail, the family are literally dicing with death as time runs out for them to complete their murderous rite.

Part Mike Leigh style gritty portrait of a dysfunctional family (and how – even the Mitchells never had family dinners like this), part gruesome gorefest (Texas Chainsaw Massacre the prequel, even) like  Dawn of the Dead, We Are What We Are is also horror with a social message. While Romero's zombies shuffle aimlessly around the mall in a grotesque parody of mindless consumerism, here our patriarch is dragged away from the floors of a shopping centre like rubbish. In a society in which individuals can become so dehumanised, how far can we blame those who become monsters?

Okay, so it does drag its bloody heels a bit at times, but as a whole this Mexican movie offers an unflinching portrayal of violence begetting violence, (accompanied by probably the best, most grisly sound effects I've heard), its slow burning plot escalating towards a truly chilling denouement. Throw in strong performances (particularly from Sin Nombre's Paulina Gaitan as daughter Sabina, a teenage Lady Macbeth who ruthlessly goads her nervous brothers into action) and you have a film well worth looking out for.

Whether the public has the insatiable appetite for cannibals it does for vampires is debatable, but We Are What We Are is nevertheless a dish to savour.

  • Share on Tumblr