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Be sure to listen to our in-depth review in the audio link above. For the sake of extending a metaphor or crafting a character in absurd extremes, many films go to great lengths in building strange and curious worlds. Think of Terry Gilliam‘s classic Brazil (1985) or David Lynch‘s The Naked Lunch (1991). We are often not meant to clearly understand what we are seeing, but no matter the disturbing imagery, we get a sense that there is a meaning and fluidity to what in on screen. With We Are The Flesh, we are practically pummeled by a barrage of freakish visuals and caustic moments with every passing frame, makes it’s difficult to see the larger picture. Every scene is more aggressively disconcerting than the last. It feels desperate to make a statement, but at the same time, eager to make it as cryptic as it possibly can.
In a gutted and utterly disheveled Mexican building, a lone man (Noé Hernández) literally lives to the beat of a different drum, banging away on his and anything else he can put his energy into, living in squalor, unclean and uncaring. Through a slot in one wall, he pulls through a tray of eggs or slabs of meat, and mixes large vats of decidedly unappetizing gruel. He is clearly unstable.
One day, from under the floorboards, a teenaged brother Lucio (Diego Gamaliel) and sister Fauna (Maria Evoli) seem born into the building and find the man, sleeping. He wakes and takes them in, offering food and shelter, but it comes with devastating madness, and to live, they must fall in line with his perverse and vile works of mental breakdown, starting with a massive catacomb-like construction of cardboard, planks, and packing tape, a womb from which they must be reborn. The horrors that follow are the most dehumanizing.
Written and directed by Emiliano Rocha Minter, in his debut, We Are The Flesh is a wholly uncompromising work of psychological horror that isn’t so much terrifying as it is disturbing, filled with a relentless stream of increasingly repulsive scenes that include cannibalism, graphic, explicit, incestuous and necrophilic sex, urolagnia, and other assorted taboos. It seems to revel in the discomfort it tries to create, openly inviting confrontation and hostility, and yet because of its over-the-top commitment to these elements, somehow feels less controversial and more just, well, weird.
Minter steers clear of subtlety, perversely going out of his way to be as unstructured and ambiguous as he can, moving from moment to moment with a sort of hypnotic haze, daring the viewer to look away (or actually keep looking). From extended, extreme close-ups of both Lucio and Fauna’s genitalia, to bloody garroting of bound victims, to visible masturbation and climax, this brief 89-minute journey is certainly unlike any you’ve likely taken before.
Themes of sex and rebirth are obvious, with a mostly dialogue-free script that see actors in near continuous states of undress and copulation, saturated in blood-red lighting, often screaming or philosophizing in existential rantings, sometimes audible, sometimes not. It all seems superficially as an implosion of unrelated images meant to incite discomfort, to which one that level it succeeds, yet there is a sense that we should be gleaning something deeper. Certainly a parable about the history, culture, growth and future of Mexico, We Are The Flesh is too frustrating in its delivery of that for the average viewer to perhaps grasp, simply because the presentation is so extremely off-putting.
There are great performances here, especially from Hernández, who is a marvel to watch as a madman, and yet, the disturbing visual battering we get in doing so detracts from what might have been a far more memorable role. We Are The Flesh has much to say, and for fans who enjoy deciphering films that lead in one direction and flip expectations by its conclusion, there is plenty here to sift through in search of metaphors. Unfortunately, for those coming in hoping for a fun gore-themed 90-minutes of horror will be entirely turned away.
Movie description: We Are The Flesh is a 2017 fantasy-horror about two siblings who take shelter in the last remaining building a devastated city and meet a mysterious man within who offers them shelter but at great cost.
Director(s): Emiliano Rocha Minter
Actor(s): Noé Hernández, María Evoli, Diego Gamaliel