Mexico might not be the first place that you think of as a country prolific in making genre cinema. However with the high profile output of Guillermo del Toro whose career started with the excellent vampire flick Cronos in 1993 there has certainly been a rise in filmmakers encouraged to have a go themselves leading to some great films in recent years. Of course Mexico has traditionally been involved in making films about all sorts of monsters and Aztec mummies from right back in the 50’s and directors like René Cardona even managed to create one of the most outrageously bad films to get embroiled in the video nasty saga with his 1969 entry Night Of The Bloody Apes. Hits like the highly regarded Alucarda by Juan López Moctezuma in 1978 were few and far between though. A firm spooky favourite of mine is J. A. Bayona’s The Orphanage 2007 and was a direct result of the success of del Toro and this has led to a trickle of other films through the gate. It’s certainly not a flood of them by any means but the likes of Jorge Michel Grau’s excellent ‘We are What We Are’ (2010) have definitely captured attention and even led to a US remake. With the recent 8 director anthology México Bárbaro showcasing just what film makers are capable of along with a work that is already courting controversy those doors are just about to open that little bit wider, cue We Are The Flesh the debut feature of Emiliano Rocha Minter.
Screened at the likes of Cannes and Fantasia festivals word has been spreading about this one prior to its showing at the London Frightfest this August. On the day before I got a chance to see it at a screening the news came through that the BBFC had passed it theatrically uncut. Perhaps I read into it a bit too much but although obviously this came as great news it may also have come as a bit of a surprise as to say the film shows quite a few past cinematic taboos broken would not be an understatement.
We Are The Flesh takes us firmly into arthouse territories rather than conventional horror although it transgresses both realms admirably. The director does not explain anything particularly in the film and it is left almost entirely for the audience to process. We are taken into a strange dilapidated building which seems to be a sprawling place that we gradually gain more access to. It’s inhabited by a deranged bearded hermit who is doing really odd things with lumps of food, banging a drum and generally acting in a lunatic fashion. We realise others inhabit this building and eventually a young man and woman join the hermit and eventually help him turn the many rooms into strange structures of wood and papier mâché womb like tunnels. By this point you will have realised that cinematography is particularly striking with each scene bathed in single coloured hues. Behaviour becomes stranger and takes on more sexual drama as the characters play off each other. Although not pornographic in the full hardcore sense this certainly isn’t for the prudish and the camera is not afraid in looming over genitalia in the slightest. As things develop all manner of the aforementioned taboos occur from necrophilia to incest, cannibalism, pissing and menstruation; no bodily fluid is spared. You find yourself as a voyeur and completely wondering just what on earth everything is all about and although you will find some answers it’s a film that is certainly not going to be easily shrugged off and will keep coming back into your thoughts long after it has been viewed.
There are a couple of ways you could look at things, one is the work of a director going out of his way to shock with his visual excesses and there is no denying that he crams plenty of them into the films 79 minute running time. Alternatively you could look at it as an exercise into the absurd and the surreal and revel in the very good performances of the central cast members. This would not have worked at all unless they had been convincing but they are. It is also the debut feature of the girl Fauna (María Evoli) which makes this and some of the things she does even more staggering. Noé Hernández who plays deranged hermit Mariano may be more familiar having been in plenty of films including the excellent and understated gang flick Sin Nombre (2009).
It’s not completely original, certainly not if you go out of your way to seek odd and bizarre films. Parts reminded me of the strange world inhabited by Coffin Joe, possibly due to the South American link or the decrepit state of those inhabiting this nightmarish place. The surrealism will no doubt remind a bit Alejandro Jodorowsky whose visions from the same continent are some of the weirdest ever committed to celluloid. I found it shared ground to a fair extent with Canadian director and cinematographer Karim Hussain whose anthology piece Subconscious Cruelty has similar disturbing and hallucinatory ideas. We Are The Flesh has been described by some as the must see film at Frightfest so if you are attending make sure you check it out and be prepared for a delirious and perverse assault of the senses. I’m already anticipating its eventual release on Blu-Ray as one watch is not enough to completely disseminate this films overall meanings and interpret it fully. I have a feeling it’s going to haunt me until exorcised by at least another viewing.
UK Cinema release date: Friday 18th November 2016