Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Somos lo que hay (2010) - A Review

Young. Wild. Hungry.

Last year, Jim Mickle’s story of a family of cannibals swept the festival circuit and horror world alike. Unbeknownst to most, his was but a reinterpretation of Jorge Michel Grau’s Somos lo que hay. Translated to We Are What We Are, the film is the story of a group of kids who are forced to pick up where their father left off when he unexpectedly dies and leaves them with the responsibility of providing for the family.

Knowing little about the film pre-viewing, I was excited to see it on OnDemand the other night. While both the original and remake have been on my radar for some time now, I was excited to get a chance to dig my toes into the source material before seeing Mickle’s vision of the story. 

Title: Somos lo que hay

Director(s): Jorge Michel Brau

Writer(s): Jorge Michel Brau

Producer(s): Nicolás Celis, Henner Hoffman, Liliana Pardo

Starring: Carmen Beato, Francisco Barreiro, Alan Chavez, Paulina Gaitán

Studio: Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica

Running Time: 90 minutes

Release Date: March 15th, 2010

When the patriarch of the family passes away, the teenage children must take responsibility for the family chores: the preparation of the rituals, the hunting and putting the all-important meat on the table. These newfound responsibilities are even more daunting, however, when you live in the city and happen to be a family of cannibals.” – IMDB

There’s something that I find refreshing about cannibalistic horror. I don’t know why that is, I suppose it’s because there hasn’t been much of that lately, but I enjoy these kind of films. The primal sort of fear that human beings are capable of doing something so grotesque and vile, it prickles the hairs on the back of my neck. We’re not talking zombies here either, but real, living, breathing human beings who hunt down other people and turn them into dinner.  Part of the reason I love The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, is because I’m generally a person who enjoys a clean tidy environment and bright natural light so the exact opposite intrigues me greatly in a horror flick. This film has that in spades and environment is everything in a horror film.

Somos lo que hay has flown under the radar since its release in 2010, and even after the release of Mickle’s remake last year, it has still largely gone unnoticed. That by no means indicates that it’s a bad film, on the contrary, the few things that I did see about it were all raving. It is a very well paced film, well thought out, well articulated and does exactly what any horror film should set out to do: it catches your attention and will not let it go. This was director Brau’s first time directing a full length feature (as well as writing), and I am very impressed. The film boasts a very dark atmosphere, and through the use of white noise, extreme close up’s and moments of musical montage Brau has created a haunting film that encapsulates the fears of this little rag tag family of cannibals. He successfully transforms a group of murderers into sympathetic anti-heroes, much like Zombie was able to accomplish with The Devil’s Rejects, and leaves you conflicted about their position in life. You don’t know whether to sympathize with Alfredo or be happy for the shit storm of emotional battery he receives throughout the length of the film. When you do feel for him, you feel like you should hate yourself for sympathizing with a cannibal. In ways, it reminds me of the emotions experienced while watching Maniac.

I have to say that I am impressed with how quickly I was pulled into the story and before I knew it I was completely invested with the events of the film. As mentioned before, the flick’s got a great pace that trudges along nicely and the cast helps to sell it with amazing grace. For the most part you are watching the lives of four people with the focus placed on the teenaged children. The film takes place within in 24 hours of “movie-time”: from the events of the first scene until the final scene (with the exception of the final 30 seconds or so).  My personal opinion is that the weight of the film was carried by Francisco Barrerio (Alfredo) and Paulina Gaitan (Sabina), however it’s hard to consider outside factors when you’ve never seen any of the actor’s other works. This film seemed to be a breakout for everyone involved, from director to actors alike, but that’s almost what makes it so great. In my opinion they knocked it out of the park on their first swing.

So with that, I think that Somos lo que hay is worthy of all the hype that surrounds it and deserves more. The balance of suspense, terror and (the surprisingly tasteful and underused) style of gore made it a formidable foe in the horror world and showed us all that Mexico has every right to be a new place to keep an eye on in the future. 


- Rg Lovecraft

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