Thoughts on We Are The Flesh, the most disturbing movie I have seen in 2017

Tenemos la Carne, translated to English as We Are The Flesh, is a Mexican horror movie with a French/Mexican production that had its limited theatrical release in January.

As you can imagine, I put my hands on it very late. In fact, I wasn’t able to check it out until a few days ago.

I’m here, talking about We Are The Flesh, since this film disturbed me quite a bit and was very different from everything else I’ve seen (probably) ever. Also, I’m not taking this title into consideration for my Top 10 Best and Worst horror films of 2017 – yes, I’m going to publish the list at the end of the year; you didn’t see that coming, did you? That’s because I can’t really recommend it to anyone as well as I can’t not recommend it. Weird, right?

We Are The Flesh doesn’t have a proper plot, let alone a linear storyline. We follow Mariano, an apparently insane man who lives alone in a disused flat after a sort of apocalypse happened. Until, one day, his place happens to be found by two siblings. Mariano offers them shelter; the offer, though, comes in exchange for some inhuman and highly disturbing acts brother and sister must comply.

Look, I usually dig disturbing movies, as long as they are impactful on a psychological level. When the violence is corporal, sexually explicit and gratuitous, then I’m bored most of the times – with the exception of Martyrs (2008), which works as a perfect combination of both and, therefore, is one of my all-time favourite horror films.

Anyway, to set the tone for you about We Are The Flesh, I’m going to list up some of the comments this movie got from professional, highly regarded reviewers: “an extreme Mexican fiesta of incest, cannibalism and explicit sex that should earn detractors and fans in equal measure” (Variety); “some viewers will certainly be offended, and others frustrated” (Bloody Disgusting); “this is the kind of visceral, boundary-pushing cinema that will never, ever be accepted by mainstream filmgoers – and will likely be hard going even for those accustomed to transgressive filmmaking” (Dread Central).

I specifically agree with the lads from Dread Central. The key-word, here, is boundary-pushing: the Mexican film addresses the audience with explicit sex-scenes (borderline porn) between siblings; close-ups on genitalia; rape, both homosexual and heterosexual; necrophilia; cannibalism and gore taken to the extreme. You might have seen these features before but, trust me, this time around they’re handled in a totally different way.

Personally, I wouldn’t go thus far to call the director “a sick bastard” and I even respect the actors for the bold and daring roles they played. But I can’t call this movie artistic, either.

Sure, the cinematography is gorgeous, the colour design amazing and the camera-work simply fantastic. Yes, in case you were wondering, We Are The Flesh tries to be a very artsy movie.

However, call me old-fashioned, but the story needs to make sense, at least a tiny bit. Regardless how symbolic your movie is, you can’t completely deconstruct it and turn it into a series of disturbing/disgusting scenes! I mean, you can, but probably people won’t buy it. Also, towards the end the movie goes way overboard and becomes ridiculous, despite the fact that it keeps being quite disturbing.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t need to be spoon-fed in order to enjoy a movie, but I read the most diverse theories on this film and still feel like its only purpose is to shock and destabilise the audience.

Do I like the movie? Of course not! Do I hate it? I don’t, either. Am I going to watch it again any time soon? I doubt it. Thus, I am not here to recommend you to watch We Are The Flesh (I actually suggest you not to), but if you dare, proceed with caution.

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Classics of Horror #7 – The Last House on the Left (1972)

The Last House on the Left is the first, and probably most, controversial entry on this list.

This film – directed by a then-young guy who went on making flicks sank by obscurity (sarcasm alert) such as The Hills Have Eyes (1977), Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), The Serpent and The Rainbow (1988), The People Under the Stairs (1991) and the four Scream (1996-2011) movies – is an exploitation horror that received humongous criticism when it came out and have been rehabilitated only in recent times.

Last House on the left 1Written, directed and edited by a young Wes Craven – one of, if not the best horror filmmaker of all time – The Last House on the Left tells the story of two naïve teenage girls who, in search of drugs, end up kidnapped by a band of maniacs who just escaped from prison.

It’s a 40-something year old movie, so I imagine nobody will complain if I insert some spoiler every here and there. I need to, in order to explain where the controversy lies.

Once kidnapped and taken into the woods, the two girls get raped, tortured and, eventually, killed.

As a consequence of its themes, the film was censored in many countries, and was particularly controversial in the United Kingdom, where The Last House was refused a certificate for cinema release by the British Board of Film Censors in 1974 due to scenes of sadism and violence.

I wonder what would have happened if A Serbian Film came out back then…

Anyway, Craven’s debut motion picture was inserted among the ‘video nasty’ list in 1984. In summary, ‘video nasty’ is the colloquial definition ascribed to a list of films that were criticised for their violent content by the press, social commentators and various religious organisations.

Last House on the left 3Due to the consequent implementation of the Video Recording Act, a stricter code of censorship has been imposed on videos than was required for cinema release. Several major studio productions were banned on video, as they fell within the scope of legislation designed to control the distribution of video nasty.

Despite many reviewers (among which Roger Ebert and Mark Kermode stood out) praised The Last House and used it as a symbol against the censorship of ideas and free art, the film had been presented to the BBFC (British Board of Film Censors) for theatrical certification throughout the years and it’d constantly been refused. Until 2008 when, upon numerous investigations by the BBFC itself, it was classified uncut for video release.

At this point, you might wonder if the movie is worth its reputation.

To begin with, the violence is quite in your face, although some weird editing choices and poor practical effects (Craven had only some $87.000 budget available) make it looks dated and less effective.

However, The Last House came out in 1972, a time when audiences’ maximum level of gore was represented by the slow-ass zombies of Night of the Living Dead (1968) and the hints to violence in Rosemary’s Baby (1968).

Due to its themes and implications, the film had an impact on me in terms of uneasiness (I must admit I consider rape as the worst crime, sin and cruelty a person could ever commit, alongside with paedophilia). So, I can just imagine how people perceived it back in the 70s.

Besides the controversy, Craven’s debut feature is an iconic rape-and-revenge exploitation that inspired an entire sub-genre with an endless list of titles and made room for a horror field that has little to do with the paranormal or supernatural.

Its grounded and down-to-hearth nature is what I appreciate the most about this film.

On the contrary, an aspect I didn’t like about it is the comic relief. In all fairness, to my knowledge, The Last House was one of the first horror flicks to introduce comedic features, a revolution that still influences horror cinema nowadays.

Unfortunately, in Craven’s film the comic relief – provided by two clumsy policemen – falls short and distracts the viewer from an otherwise dark and depressing story.

The sound design fails as well in creating a suspenseful atmosphere, being filled with tracks more suitable for a hash house than a dramatic situation as the one our teenagers are experiencing.

Last House on the left 2In terms of characters, the criminals are depicted very well and their traits emerge through dialogues and actions more than exposition. The girls and the other protagonists, instead, are flat and victims of the events, therefore not very interesting.

All in all, The Last House of the Left is worth a watch, especially if you are looking for some 80 minutes of ‘twisted’ entertainment. Craven’s debut will not be the only director’s entrance on this list and, perhaps, the next ones will justify his title of Master of Horror. Cheers!