We Are the Flesh
After wandering a ruined city for years in search of food and shelter, two siblings find their way into one of the last remaining buildings. Inside, they find a man who will make them a dangerous offer to survive the outside world.
Emiliano Rocha Minter
Emiliano Rocha Minter
And lots and lots of masking tape.
If you think this is some sort of perverse attempt at enticing you to read my review, it sort of is. But it’s also the truth of the visceral and vulgar atrocities you’ll see in the new Mexican horror import, We are the Flesh.
I don’t really know what to make of this film, or how to properly summarize the piece, but I’ll make a valiant effort to do so.
A strange and solitary man named Mariano (Noe Hernandez) resides in a run-down building (perhaps an old warehouse?) in the long days following an apparent apocalypse. He exchanges homemade gasoline for eggs and other food items – through a secret passage in the wall. With whom? We don’t know. He also goes on crazy benders by drinking said gasoline – and basically passes each day surviving without going outside. Two random young strangers – brother and sister Fauna and Lucio (Diego Gamaliel and Maria Evoli; respectively) – arrive looking for food and shelter. Mariano takes them in, but they must help him create a giant indoor cave system, out of a wooden frame (held together by masking tape), cardboard and empty egg cartons. He also invites them to engage in their deepest and most perverse desires – thus allowing them to venture into some very heavy territory.
The film has a Lars von Trier quality (think Antichrist) – in its graphic depictions of sex. While there’s never actual XXX penetration shown, the film is no less shocking a piece for something which isn’t technically considered pornography. When Mariano suggests that the girl perform fellatio on her brother, you don’t actually expect the film to show it. And yet…
The film was technically marvelous – particularly in the lighting and production design departments. Once the cardboard cave system is complete (it looks fantastic by the way), it takes on a creepy new life – eventually moving beyond the look of cardboard and into what appears to be a real cave. It’s expertly done, not only technically, but in the way the area evolves over time. It’s a strange thing to call out, but a highlight nonetheless. As far as the glorious lighting, it always felt authentic, even in the more crazy sequences (of which there are many).
The lead performance from Hernandez is a manic tour-de-force. He’s cuckoo from the beginning, so we don’t get some sort of grand journey here, but he still terrifies and amuses in all of his rants and frequent stone-faced staring. We don’t know who the character is really (we’ll get a little bit of a clue-in at the film’s end), but he’s not someone we can identify with. Is he the protagonist or the antagonist? Who knows? This film doesn’t follow any rules, so he could be a bit of both.
As for the brother and sister, Gamaliel and Evoli are fearless. They’re nude for several chunks of the film and some of the subject matter they had to tackle (see my opening paragraph) certainly had to take plenty of bravery and plenty of trust in their director. For the slight character traits they are given, they’re still able to manage good performances. I’d be curious to see what they could do in a more by-the-books film.
The ending is something of a trick on the viewer, relying on the commonplace “big secret is revealed” of so many horror films over the past (close to) two decades. It’s not a complete surprise, but it’s not something I saw coming either – mostly because I never – at any time – had any idea where this was going. But it makes sense in the world of the film. And it explains a few things, particularly why there are so many people in the film’s climax – which is an orgy of blood and depravity.
I honestly don’t know if I can recommend this film, or what my own true feelings are. If you look at it from the point of entertainment, yes I was entertained. I was also disturbed and confused. Looking from the standpoint of story – there really isn’t one. We know very little about who these people are. We gain no knowledge of their history or their past lives. We know that they’re violent sexual deviants –but to what end? The final moments will shed some light, but not caring about the characters on-screen for the entire running time, well – it begs the age-old question; “What’s the point?”
The film is visually arresting. The actors are brave and engaging. But these qualities are not enough to warrant higher marks. Personally, I need some story and some character development to go along with my disgusting and weirdly titillating on-screen depravity.
This is writer/director Emiliano Rocha Minter’s first feature film. Upon further inspection, he is credited in the camera department for a brilliant short film which did well on the festival circuit a couple of years back – Masacre en San Jose. I am intrigued enough by what he brings to the table, so I’ll stay tuned for further work. I just hope the next round finds a more cohesive story and deeper character development.
We Are the Flesh is certainly not an easy film to decipher and it’s definitely not an easy film to digest. So if you choose to view it, be ready for some true craziness and some deeply disturbing images. It’s a film which is definitely not for everyone.
The film will become available on DVD/Blu-ray/VOD in February.