Hype is a strange beast. Nowadays, in our relentless, 24/7 news cycle, it can make or break a film. This is particularly pertinent when it comes to horror, as every movie wants to be the next ‘scariest movie ever’ (and very few actually are). Think of The Babadook, The Witch or It Follows. How many people turned on those movies primarily because they fell victim to so-called hype and couldn’t possibly live up to their preordained standards?
When it comes to shock value, hype can be a hindrance or a curse. Often both. A Serbian Film is pretty disgusting, but it’s still a well-made, well-performed film. The Human Centipede might make you puke a little in your mouth, but the production values are high and Dieter Laser makes for a formidable villain. In the case of We Are The Flesh (AKA Tenemos La Carne), however, the hype surrounding it is arguably its biggest, and only, talking point.
The plot, such as it is, centres around a young brother-sister duo (played by Maria Evoli and Diego Gamaliel) who stumble upon Noe Hernández‘s unhinged, perma-gurning loon and his makeshift shanty town in a post-apocalyptic wasteland of sorts. The three soon become a bizarre kind of family unit, with Hernández‘s character encouraging the kids to commit ever more disgusting acts, such as eating meat when one is a strict vegetarian and, er, incest.
Shot through with that art-house gaze that Gaspar Noé (who is clearly an influence here) strove for with Love, We Are The Flesh desperately wants to be as shocking and memorable as that flick, with a healthy dollop of Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac thrown in for good measure. The horror elements are very much second thoughts, chucked in here and there with no real reasoning behind them until a Grand Guignol finale that is as telegraphed and obvious as it is deathly boring.Hernández‘s increasingly overlong monologues to the blatant, try-hard shock tactics (which will only freak out newbies – if anyone). What first time, Mexican writer-director Emiliano Rocha Minter has failed to grasp is that close-ups of dicks and vaginas are all well and good but there has to be some meaning, some thought behind them or else they’ll fall, well, flat.
The performances don’t help matters, each of the central trio aiming to be that much more crazy-eyed, overly-earnest or, alternatively, melodramatic than the others. Of the three, Evoli makes the most impact, looking a bit like a young Uma Thurman but selling her wild-eyed, reckless abandon and unnatural affection for a man who is essentially both her captor and, clearly, a pervert. Her actions don’t quite make sense, but at least she’s interesting. Gamaliel is a blank slate and Hernández talks a lot without actually saying anything.
Considering the numerous attempts at shock, We Are The Flesh does get to be a bit of a slog. And, once the incest angle is established (using mostly infrared, which kind of defeats the purpose), it’s quite repetitive also. To use a crass metaphor worthy of such a feature, it’s as though Rocha Minter has shot his load too early and can’t think of anything else to do aside from standing around, ruminating in his own filth.
Instead of building up to the money shot, we get it pretty much immediately, not to mention it’s heavily telegraphed from the outset. Anything that can be used to shock us (a pregnant child bride! Cannibalism! An orgy!) is attempted but none of it makes any impact whatsoever because we don’t care about these characters. And all the screeching, crying and bodily fluids in the world won’t make us care, either.
We Are The Flesh has attracted some controversy already (and likely more will come) but any suggestions of the sex being real are thrown out the window once it actually begins. These characters may exist in a grotty, grimy underworld but they make love as though they’re in a movie, rather than a porno. There’s nothing realistic about these scenes, nothing new or potentially boundary-pushing. Whereas Von Trier and Noe made us question the seediness of what we were watching, the sex here is downright glossy.
It’s a tough watch overall, but not for the reasons one would imagine. The score is a low, purposeful hum, which lends a sense of foreboding that never fully pays off. The camera spirals as events spiral out of control which, aside from being headache-inducingly obvious, adds nothing of substance to an already wafer-thin premise. There’s a decent switch-around late in the game but it doesn’t justify what’s come before.
Considering everything that’s come before; Perfume did orgiastic cannibalism better, and with considerably more nuance; The Neon Demon gave us masturbating on top of a corpse just this year; while Von Trier and Noé offered up all the squelchy, gross sex we could handle and then some. Who exactly is We Are The Flesh supposed to be catering to? What boundaries is it pushing? All things considered, it’s the worst thing a hyped, supposedly (already) infamous and shocking film can be: boring.
WICKED RATING: 2/10
Director(s): Emiliano Rocha Minter
Writer(s): Emiliano Rocha Minter
Stars: María Cid, María Evoli, Diego Gamaliel, Noé Hernández
Studio/ Production Co: Detalle Films
Length: 79 mins.