We Are The Flesh
"It may be derivative, underdeveloped and twee, but it has force of personality."

Début feature director Emiliano Rocha Minter is only 27, which is evident in this film in many ways but not in one: despite his youth he has mastered one of the would-be auteur's best tricks. He has realised that when one mixes two genres, each of which generally plays to a separate group of critics, one can create the illusion of innovation. Here, horror critics are wowed by artsy imagery; artistically inclined critics find the subject dangerous and daring. It takes wider-ranging experience to be able to appreciate the difference between a Gary Blum and some random shit on a wall.

Minter's work is more reminiscent of the aggrieved prisoner school. It just came out, he says. Fortunately he is aided by two very capable actors and their presence, together with some capable cinematography, makes this mostly watchable and sometimes compelling. It may be derivative, underdeveloped and twee, but it has force of personality.

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At the heart of it is the formidable Noé Hernández, who has previously demonstrated his talent in the likes of Sin Nombre but has never had a role like this. He plays Mariano, a man who lives alone in an apparently deserted city ad has embraced solitude, leading him to try and construct a new wrld for himself both literally and morally. When youngsters Fauna (María Evoli) and Lucio (Diego Gamaliel) stray into his path, they become tools of his creation. Fauna embraces this with gusto (Evoli delivering a performance to rival that of Hernández, which is no easy task), but Lucio is reticent. As such, he becomes a plaything for the others and, through his suffering and gradual corruption, the only one who seems likely to learn anything.

This film, praised for its visual aesthetic, will probably impress you more if you haven't seen Altered States, with which it has a striking amount in common. There are heavy borrowings from elsewhere, too, with one sequence notably reminiscent of one of the more surreal moments in Jonathan Glazer's Under The Skin. Its orgiastic later scenes will appeal to those with an appetite for flesh but are not a patch on the work of Can Evrenol or, for that matter, Brian Yuzna - there is no successful ownership of the grotesque, no passage beyond what is superficially alluring or mildly unpleasant. Similarly problematic are the scenes that try to shock whilst struggling even to surprise - and really, if you're shocked by the idea of incest, you need to get out more, because it's hardly a rarity in film these days.

Balancing this, there are some nicely choreographed abstract dance sequences spaced through the film, helping to build atmosphere and emphasising the physicality of the characters. Gamaliel is a bit out of his depth in the most challenging of the three lead roles, too often merely passive when we need to see more of what's going on inside him, but Hernández is magnificent and newcomer Evoli an impressive find. One hopes that she can go on to find better work which offers her as much room to exercise her talents.

Reviewed on: 11 Feb 2017
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Wandering through a ruined city, a young brother and sister discover a building inhabited by a mysterious hermit who offers them sanctuary.

Director: Emiliano Rocha Minter

Writer: Emiliano Rocha Minter

Starring: Noé Hernández, María Evoli, Diego Gamaliel, Gabino Rodríguez, María Cid

Year: 2016

Runtime: 79 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Mexico

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