We Are What We Are (Somos Le Que Hay)
Director/Screenplay – Jorge Michel Grau, Producer – Nicolas Celis, Photography – Santiago Sanchez, Music – Enrico Chapela, Visual Effects – Gretel Studio (Supervisor – Michael Hoffman), Special Effects – Efeccine Mobile S.A. de C.V. (Supervisor – Alejandro Vazquez), Makeup Design – Francesca Dalla Benetta, Production Design – Alejandro Garcia. Production Company – Centro de Capacitacion Cinematografica/Fondo Para la Produccion Cinematografica de Calidad
Francisco Berreiro (Alfredo), Alan Chavez (Julian), Carmen Beato (Patricia), Paulina Gaitan (Sabina), Jorge Zarate (Owen), Esteban Soberanes (Octavio), Juan Carlos Colombo (Funeral Director), Miguel Angel Hoppe (Gustavo)
A family are distraught to learn that the father, their sole provider, has died while at the mall. They desperately need to devour human bodies otherwise they will die. Alfredo, the oldest of the two sons, tries to shoulder responsibility and become the new head of the family and go and hunt. He and his brother Julian follow their father’s lead and abduct a prostitute, only for their mother to rebuke them for doing so and kill the woman. With the need to feed soon approaching, they try to find other means to hunt. Meanwhile, their cannibalistic spree has caught the attention of a police detective who is determined to find them.
This Mexican-made film gained considerable word-of-mouth after playing at Cannes and a host of the major international and fantastic film festivals. It was a debut film for Jorge Michel Grau who was subsequently went on to make segments of the anthologies The ABCs of Death (2012) and Barbarous Mexico (2014), as well as the US thriller Big Sky (2015) and the Mexican earthquake film 7: 19 (2016).
The horror genre treads such well-worn paths among a limited number of themes that it is always welcome when you get a work that does something different. We Are What We Are is highly unusual in this regard. It is a film that is clearly within the horror genre but where the essential why of what is going on has been removed from the equation altogether. Jorge Michel Grau’s cinematographic style could easily resemble the type of foreign language film you frequently get at festivals – the sort where the camera sits just observationally watching the ordinary kitchen sink day-to-day life of a family. In this respect, We Are What We Are is a mosaic where it is up to us to piece together what is happening – even if Grau keeps the full picture elusive and beyond our grasp.
We are introduced to a family who keep talking about and dropping hints about wanting to eat people and hunting. Quite whether the family eats in the literal sense of cannibalism or what is unclear for their greater part – we never see them partaking in the consumption of any human flesh, although the coroner does find a human finger inside the stomach of the dead father. There is much talk of a ritual but we never see this or learn what it is for. There is much urgency to the situation where they have to eat according to the ritual otherwise they might die, somewhat akin to vampires needing to consume blood, but we never learn why this is the case.
The boys of the family are tentatively seen venturing out to find means of hunting, luring prostitutes and then going to a gay club. Jorge Michel Grau delivers all of this with an undeniable grimness of style, even if in the end there is never much that moves over into full shock theatre – there is the scene where the whore is battered to death by the mother and that is it. Rather than explain, the film winds things up with an extended night-lit chase where police close in and kill most of the family in a shootout. The rest of the film leaves you scratching your head.
The film underwent an English-language remake three years later in the US with We Are What We Are (2013) from director Jim Mickle. This loosely keeps to the same premise of the family trying to continue on after one of their parents die. However, the remake changes much, including making the cannibalism more overt and swapping the sexes of all the principals so that it is now two girls who are hunting following the death of their mother.