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We Are What We Are (15)

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Review byMatthew Turner12/11/2010

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 99 mins

Stylishly directed and sharply written, this is an effectively creepy arthouse horror that does for Mexican cannibals what Let the Right One In did for Swedish vampires.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by first timer Jorge Michel Grau, We Are What We Are (Somos Lo Que Hay, original title fans) is set in present-day Mexico City and opens in a shopping mall as a dishevelled, middle-aged man drops dead after vomiting up a black liquid. It transpires that the man is the head of a family of cannibals – including angry wife Patricia (Carmen Beato), young daughter Sabina (Paulina Gaitan), timid teenager Alfredo (Francisco Barreiro) and his hot-headed younger brother Julian (Alan Chavez, who sadly died after shooting was completed) – who are forced to fend for themselves when they realise their father isn't coming home.

Furious that they've been left destitute, Patricia begins to crack up, while Sabina calmly attempts to persuade Alfredo that as the new head of the household it's up to him to bring home their next meal-slash-victim. However, Alfredo is struggling with a different secret all of his own.

The Good
The script is excellent, ensuring that the story serves as both urban horror and cutting social commentary without losing sight of either element. That said, the various metaphors (cannibals as dispossessed minority; the whole idea of what 'putting food on the table' means in this context) come perilously close to overbalancing the story at times, especially once Alfredo's secret is revealed.

The performances are excellent, particularly Barreiro and Gaitan, while there's chilling support from Beato as the real monster of the family. Grau's control of the tone is assured throughout, creating a powerfully creepy and oppressive atmosphere without overdoing the gore factor.

The Great
The production design is superb, with strong attention to detail, particularly in the cramped family home, which is packed with clocks and feels suitably grubby. In addition, there's striking cinematography courtesy of Santiago Sanchez and Grau orchestrates several memorable scenes, most notably, the boys' abortive attempt to kidnap a child or a lengthy sequence where Alfredo follows his intended victim into a club.

Worth seeing?
By turns chilling, creepy and surprisingly moving, We Are What We Are is a well made, superbly acted arthouse horror that marks Jorge Michel Grau out as a talent to watch. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 15/11/2010 07:45

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