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May 9, 2011 | by  | in Film |
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Somo Lo Que Hay (We Are What We Are)

Horror films speak to the fears of their audiences. As a Mexican film directed by Jorge Michel Grau, it is probably safe to guess that Somo Lo Que Hay (We Are What We Are) is about the fears of contemporary Mexican urbanites. It was quite an interesting watch for me as I know fuck all about Mexicans.

The movie begins with an old fella lurching through the streets like a zombie, perving at lingerie. We don’t learn much about him as he karks it pretty quick, coughing up some black bile, and dying on the pavement.

As the film unfolds, we discover this man is survived by a family of two teenage brothers, their precocious sister, and a distraught mother. With the patriarch of the family dead, they are not only in a tricky position financially, living in the slums in Mexico, but they’ve found the family hierarchy completely disorganised. Who’s the boss of the family? Whose job will it be to hunt the prostitutes?

Hold up: hunt the prostitutes? Yep, for some reason that’s never fully explained, this family habitually kidnap people and eat them. Apparently Dad had quite a fondness for working girls, though Mum strongly objects when her two sons kidnap one and tie her up on the dining room table, like some sort of monstrous feast. She promptly beats the poor girl to death with a golf club. In this moment of warped violence, we find the thematic core of the film—the conflict between the instinct for survival battling the difficulty of keeping a family together in this confusing world of vice.

There’s also an increasingly complicated sexual politics at play. After murdering the poor girl, Mum takes her back to the local pick-up corner and dumps the body, yelling at the dear girls to never come near her kids again. What’s most intriguing here is that there’s no feeling of an omnipotent male gaze, but rather an impression of assertive women doing what they must to ensure their own survival.

The sexual politics is further explored and contrasted as the eldest son, aloof from his family and lacking the domineering energy of his younger brother, starts following some well-dressed young men about the city. In my innocence, I thought that they were merely some stylish young Mexican kids hanging out, but once they stepped into a bar with disco lights and doof doof music, the penny dropped.

The eldest son, now wrestling with some sexual identity issues, proceeds to make out with one of his new friends. Then he takes him home and tries to eat him. And then there’s a shoot-out with the police and everyone dies, except the Mum who is murdered horribly by the prostitutes.

So what has this bizarre film taught us? Families are changing, people are changing, Mexico is changing. For all we know, New Zealand could be changing too. Don’t fuck with your Mum. Watch out if you’re a prostitute and/or you’re same-sex oriented. Actually just watch out, especially in cities, because there are clearly a lot of weird people out there who may well try and eat you. Figuratively, one hopes…

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