MARCH 19, 2013 SCREENING: WE ARE WHAT WE ARE (2010)
Well, well, well. I can now say for certain that my reasoning for preferring Let Me In (2010) to its foreign counterpart wasn’t because I saw the American version first. With “We Are What We Are”, I was presented with a similar set of circumstances, having to watch the American remake before seeing the foreign original. In this case, the older version appeared to be the must better film of the two.
We Are What We Are (2010) is a low budget Mexican film, providing quite a contrast to its American counterpart. But one big distinction here is that the two films are nothing like watching the two Let Me In‘s back to back, and seeing the same story unfold the same way. Instead, the films took the same basic premise and executed it in totally different ways, and went off in completely different directions. One deliberate change was the cast themselves – the American remake apparently purposely inverted the family from the original, so it consisted of a domineering father, two quiet teenage girls, and an innocent little boy. The original movie Mexican film was the mirror image of this: the family consists of a weak mother, two feuding teenage sons, and a clever pre-teen daughter. As in the American film, the family are cannibals and have been carrying on this “tradition” for years. But with a totally different family structure and setting, the focus and story is nothing like its American remake.
When it comes to the Mexican version, this is a character study about a family that has literally gotten away with murder for years but is now becoming unraveled after the father is killed at the beginning of the film. They live in a poor, destitute area of Mexico. The younger daughter feels that its the “duty” of the oldest son to carry on his father’s tradition, so he attempts to do so and tries to kidnap “whores” for the family to kill and eat. He’s very clumsy at his first attempt to do this, and the other prostitutes quickly notice that a young man brutally attacked one of their girls and dragged her away to his car. This sets off a series of problems for the family that ultimate culminates in a confrontation with the police at the end of a film, and a shoot out. What happens between the starting off point and the climax kept me interested, although the film is sloppily made at times and had a lot of useless filler. One of the more interesting points in this movie is that it hints at a lot of secrets in the family, but never directly shows anything one way or another — one of the brothers is seduced by a gay man and may be secretly gay himself, leading to him return and grab the gay man as a victim for the family to kill. His motivations are never explained. The sister might secretly be in an incestuous relationship with her other brother – but this too is only vaguely hinted it and may be a red herring. The back story of the father is never explained either, and left me wondering more, since he is clearly the glue that held the family together. The mother and her children also always discuss some type of “ritual” for their cannibalism, but this is never explained nor seen.
In short, the film is frustrating because it raises a lot of interesting ideas that it ever fully explorers or answers. The deciding factor for me where this film beat its American remake hands down was the conclusion of the film. Like the American version, it culminates in a scene where one of the teens begins to gnaw at his own family member’s flesh (in this case, his sister), but unlike in the U.S. Version, this film gives us a legitimate payoff at the end why he did that. Likewise, the final scene sends a message to the audience that “the cycle will continue”, but here its done in a much creepier and memorable way, with the final image in the movie being unforgettable.
We Are What We Are (2010) has its problems, and its certainly not the greatest horror film in the world, but its worth a look. It’s also an entirely difference experience that its American counterpart of the same name. Apparently the American film was envisioned as a “re-imagining”. This tends to be Hollywood talk for a film that ruined anything that you liked about the original, and We Are What We Are is no exception. Both versions of the movie are watchable, decent horror films. But only the Mexican version gives the audience something of their own to chew on.
** ½ out of ****