Many would dismiss the horror genre as one of hedonistic excess, films filled with sex and death. While this may be true of the worst of the genre, the best horror movies, fans argue, push social norms, allowing audiences to view the society they exist in critically; some would say that We Are the Flesh a Mexican Art House Horror and the feature film debut of Emiliano Rocha Minter is one of these. Arrow Video bring this unique art house horror film to Blu-Ray and English audiences, released February 13th, but is it worth your money and your time?
Set in a seemingly apocalyptic Mexico, two siblings Fauna and Lucio stumble into an abandoned building, where they meet a bizarre and charismatic hermit. This hermit puts the twins to work building a strange cardboard cave, and from there he pushes them into his world of insane and depraved fantasies. The worrying thing is they begin to like it.
The film is visually impressive with a great use of colour, camera placement and movement. Cinematographer Yollotl Alvarado has a fantastic eye and uses it to create a strange dream space within the cardboard cave with rotation camera's inventive lighting and washes of colour that disorientate and frighten audiences. These great shots are masterfully woven by Rocha Minter who pulls quadruple duty as Director, Writer, Editor and Producer. Rocha creates scenes of such excess that it is nauseating and enticing at the same time.
All of the visuals are wonderfully underpinned by Esteban Aldrete's music. The lack of score does something to make the events on screen feel real. But when it is used, it is done to a great effect. For example, there is a scene where the twins first engage in incest, and it is shot with a thermal camera with music that both counterpoints and emphasises the act at the same time. All the crew are true artists that understand film as its own form and use filmic language to its utmost to disturb, disgust and entrance.
However, the film would be nothing without brave performances by the film's three leading actors. Noe Hernandez is suitably enigmatic and unhinged as Mariano, the hermit. Mario Evoli is otherworldly as Fauna, who is quickly taken under the wing of Mariano. She soon becomes embroiled in this depraved world when she kills a soldier and drinks his blood, as well as absorbing all of Mariano's ideas on taboo. Her downward spiral is quick, and her behaviour is all the more unsettling because of a veneer of normality. While at the other end of the spectrum, Diego Gamaliel's Lucio provides a small amount of grounding. It is through his eyes that the audience understands the world the twins have wandered into. Though he does resist the advice of Mariano for a while, Lucio eventually succumbs, and his scenes are the strangest and most unnerving, as the audience wonders whether it too would do the things the twins do. For example, there is a scene where he eats a piece of steak that was stomach churning.
We Are the Flesh delivers what it promises, an artistic examination of taboo and the damaging influence of unsuppressed desire. However, despite this, there seems to be a wall between the film and the audience, a distance that is created by art, your mileage may vary, but I found myself appreciating the film as a think piece rather than enjoying it as a movie. Despite this, it is still a beautifully shot and acted think piece.
Arrow Video do a fantastic job with this release. The feature is presented in High Definition 1080p with an option of a 5.1 surround sound or a uncompressed 2.0 stereo format. Arrow do a great job with the transfer, and there were noticeable visual or audio faults. The film looks great on Blu-Ray with vibrant colours and sound that shakes you to your very core.
It is important for a non-English Langauge film to have clear subtitles, and here they can be seen perfectly, though for a film like We Are The Flesh, you won't be reading subtitles very often. The menus are also easily navigated, and it is clear that Arrow is a dab hand at providing customers with a solid product.
The disc is packed with extras that expand the experience of the feature film. The first is a video essay by critic Virginie Selavy, who does a great job analysing the film's themes and foregrounding its influences, with references to Jodorowsky and theatre directors Antonin Artaud's theories on a Theatre of Cruelty.
The other extras are two short films by Emiliano Rocha Minter, Dentro and Videohome. Both these films allow audiences to fully understand the style of film that Rocha Minter makes. Each short expands on his unique world view, and the unsettling silent horror that is in We Are the Flesh. Videohome is a montage that leaves audiences feeling confused, unsettled and amused. While Dentro is a master class in unspoken strangeness, as two people build a strange contraption out in the woods.
There are also interviews with the director and cast, which go further into the making of the film and the process that went into creating this unnerving piece of art.
Finally, there is the theatrical trailer and a gallery of stills taken during the making of the film, which has become the standard for most home video releases.
We Are The Flesh is artistic in its construction and its message, it looks and sounds fantastic, and it certainly pushes boundaries of normal sexual behaviour. But I personally didn't know what to make of the film; it was not something I particularly enjoyed, but it is something that I can appreciate as a discourse on sexuality, and the corruption of human desire. So if you want to watch a film that turns your stomach and the gears in your brain, then We Are the Flesh is a film for you.
We Are the Flesh is an inventive and unnerving film. While the extras reveal some secrets, I still felt a sense of disconnection that I couldn't rectify