Sunday, October 2, 2011

We Are What We Are

After the death of their father, three teenagers and their mother find themselves awkwardly trying to take over the family business. Unfortunately, that family business involves abducting, killing and eating people for bizarre ritualistic purposes.

To me, We Are What We Are was a bit of a swing and a miss, but it did enough right that I enjoyed and appreciated the effort. The approach is slightly arty and very serious, while still trying to deliver the goods in terms of suspense, creepiness, grotesqueness, etc. The tone is mainly somber, and it has a very muted, desaturated color palette that sets a downbeat mood without going over the top into slick, designer grittiness territory. The performances are strong across the board.

Honestly, though, the film could stand to have a little more fun. You can see the potential for something a little more lively in the scenes where the siblings awkwardly stumble their way through abduction and murder, something with a little more dark humor, a little more energy, a little more excitement. But We Are What We Are is committed such to its dreary tone, that all its major set pieces are basically nonstarters.

Worse, it gets harder and harder to take the film seriously as the final act gets more and more ridiculous, yet the tone stays grim. Now, you know me, I'm not someone who cares about realism or believability in movies. I don't sit around picking out plot holes or applying logic where it's not required. What I do hate, however, is contrivance, and the last 20 or 30 minutes has to keep piling contrivance on top of contrivance to keep the story going and have it reach its predetermined ending place. It has a few too many coincidences, too many characters doing stupid things just to keep the plot rolling, too many major events happening with clockwork timing. When you can see all the gears turning in the screenplay, it's hard to stay invested.

As a side note, the reason this film was originally on my radar was because it was directed by a fellow named Jorge Michel Grau, who I assumed was the same Jorge Grau who directed Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, a flawed but cool mid-70's zombie movie that I have a certain affection for. Only it turns out that they are two different people, just two dudes with the same name who both happen to direct horror movies. If this Jorge Grau makes another horror movie, I think there's enough potential evident here that I'd be on board, even if I didn't feel this one was successful.

Grade: C+

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