We Are the Flesh, 2016.
Directed by Emiliano Rocha Minter.
Starring Noé Hernández, María Evoli, Diego Gamaliel, Gabino Rodríguez, and María Cid.
A pair of homeless siblings takes shelter in an old building where a strange hermit forces them into a world of depravity.
“This is not your average party” says Mariano, one of the characters in We Are the Flesh, and never has a truer sentence been said, especially when you consider that Mariano is the instigator in all the madness that We Are the Flesh revels in. Who Mariano (Noé Hernández) is never gets revealed but it is suggested the setting for the film is a post-apocalyptic world where food and shelter are sparse; we know this because a pair of rough-looking teenage siblings (María Evoli and Diego Gamaliel) arrive in his decrepit building and ask for shelter, and Mariano is only too happy to give it to them in return for help taping pieces of wood together to make the shelter into some sort of cave-like womb structure. Why this is we don’t know but it is a significant metaphor that signals where the film is heading, although Mariano’s initially weird but friendly(ish) manner doesn’t really prepare you for what else lies ahead.
We Are the Flesh is a film that dares you to watch it but never really offers up a reason as to why you should. Yes, it has explicit content and goes to places only reserved for the darkest of thoughts but the imagery only offers provocation and nothing else, and in 2017 it takes a little more than a close-up of character’s genitals or droplets of menstrual blood on somebody’s lips to be truly shocking. What is disturbing is the idea of incest and Mariano becomes almost Manson-esque in his wicked delight when he discovers that the two youngsters in his home are brother and sister, and this is when We Are the Flesh looks like it could be shaping into something a little weightier as Mariano forces his two new housemates into fucking each other as he masturbates over the pair of them. A truly bizarre moment and the point when the film fully gives in to its art house tendencies and becomes a series of metaphors and symbolism about rebirth that feel totally disconnected from each other, the only connective tissue being the director’s need to provoke with nothing more than graphic images of sex framed in what appears to be some sort of psychedelic Predator vision.
Had it been released 30 or 40 years ago then We Are the Flesh would probably be sitting alongside the likes of Salo or Nekromantik as an edgy, transgressive nightmare put onto film but in the last 15 years we’ve had the likes of Irreversible, Enter the Void, Martyrs and A Serbian Film pushing the boundaries in far more interesting and creative ways, and ways that made you think about and question what you had just seen. We Are the Flesh comes (!) nowhere near those edgier and more cohesive movies and tries way too hard (if you forgive the pun) to be shocking and subversive but falls flat very quickly due to having little or no context for anything that it shows you.
It would be incorrect to say that there is no artistry on display in the film as it is well-shot – the camerawork really is quite impressive – and has a nightmarish atmosphere that many horror filmmakers struggle to create with a lot more resources at their disposal, and credit must go to the three main actors for being so daring and committed to what they are put through, but overall We Are the Flesh is a pretender to the throne of controversial art house movies that will still no doubt split audiences down the middle due to what it suggests but is ultimately a pretentious and flaccid mess of a film.