Film Review: We Are the Flesh

An orgy of graphic sex and (mostly) psychological violence, this Mexican art-house shocker is designed to offend. Let the viewer beware.
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Snugly sheltered in an abandoned office building, a squat, nameless hermit (Noé Hernández) offers refuge to homeless siblings Fauna and Lucio (María Evoli and Diego Gamaliel), who’ve been wandering around some nameless city for days. He gives them food—he trades with some unseen person for eggs, delivered via a primitive pulley system—and a place to sleep, though they first have to build it to his specifications out of wood scraps and packing tape. The resulting structure, a womb-like complex of tunnels and alcoves shot by cinematographer Yollótl Alvarado in luscious, pulsing shades of pink, yellow, blue, orange and red, becomes a sort of subterranean pleasure dome where the leering hermit (anyone who’s seen 1973’s exploitation legend The Sinful Dwarf will be hard put to banish it from their mind) calls the shots, demanding that the lissome young people have sex while he watches. But to what end?

To paraphrase the notorious 1980s Loompanics catalogue of mail-order outré publications: Emiliano Rocha Minter’s We Are the Flesh offers incest, necrophilia, cannibalism and much, much more. If you are the sort of person who would have ordered, say, Loompanics offering Black Collar Crimes: An Encyclopedia of False Prophets and Unholy Orders in a frantic heartbeat, you no doubt already want to see We Are the Flesh and I would not discourage you. It’s tempting to call it a made-to-order midnight movie, but like Alejandro Jodorowsky’s classic El Topo (1970) and Jim Mickle/Nick Damici/Jorge Michel Grau’s more recent We Are What We Are (2013), it’s too discomfiting to be a forgettable freaky-fun good time.

The film’s palpable épater le bourgeois glee aside, it appears that there is a "Do Not Go There" button in Rocha Minter’s brain, in that the closest We Are the Flesh comes to the sort of scatology in which the Marquis de Sade reveled three centuries earlier is a scene of Fauna matter-of-factly hunkering down and urinating in a hallway. That doesn’t even count as a provocation in a film where human flesh is lovingly ground into mush and a man’s lifeblood is drunk from a bucket like wine. Though, again—We Are the Flesh occasions a lot of "thoughs"—Mexico is a Catholic country. And to Minter’s credit, he delivers a terrific 11th-hour game-changer of a scene that genuinely does throw everything that precedes it into a different yet equally disturbing light.

But there’s still more than a hint of sheer "Are you shocked yet?" about the proceedings, and let’s face it: Who remembers the likes of, say, much-touted "star of tomorrow" Ray Brady’s nasty, buzz-generating Boy Meets Girl (1994) nearly a quarter of a century later?

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