New Releases for Tuesday, February 28, 2017
We Are the Flesh
Directed by: Emiliano Rocha Minter
Run time: 89 minutes
The Lowdown: It’s just one of those rules of life, kind of like always wash your hands after going No. 2.
You never, ever, no matter how much spiked egg nog you’ve had at Christmas dinner, make a play for someone you’re related to, even if it’s a distant cousin on your long-dead uncle’s side of the family.
There’s a reason why incest is taboo. It’s just weird, and icky.
And, yes, you should trust BVB on this point, even though we watch and review some of the goriest, most God-awful horror films ever made.
But what if it wasn’t such a bad thing?
What if society had it all wrong?
The new film, We Are the Flesh, approaches the delicate subject of incest with a bold, brave lens and delivers one of the most out-there cinematic experiences you’ve ever had.
The debut feature from Mexican writer-director Emiliano Rocha Minter is a nearly-indecipherable, yet compulsively watchable, story about family love, self-love, group love and the omnipotence of the vagina.
We Are the Flesh practically defies description. The film opens on Mariano (Noé Hernández, in a breathtakingly fearless performance), a squatter living in what appears to be a subterranean basement of a large building. He spends his days slaving over an open pit fire, boiling rancid meat and excrement into a fetid fecal stew, which he then distills down to its purest form – a clear liquid that he imbibes through an eye-dropper like liquid LSD. That’s right, Mariano is bat shit crazy.
It isn’t clear what’s going on in the world outside, but Minter does his best to suggest some terrible, apocalyptic event has ravaged the world as previously known.
Enter Fauna and Lucio, sister and brother scavengers, who literally stumble upon Mariano as he lies passed out on the dirt floor. They think he’s dead and decide to take over his squalid squatter’s paradise. But then he wakes up, and whoa boy, that’s when the fun begins.
Mariano transforms into the hellish equivalent of Harold Hill, the faux-band leader who hoodwinked an entire Iowa town in 1962’s The Music Man. His manic energy and leering eyes transfix Fauna even as they unnerve Lucio. The young adults, barely legal in age or life experiences, inexplicably agree to help Mariano transform the dank basement into a fleshy, pulsing embodiment of womanhood. Using mud and cardboard and lots and lots of duct tape, the trio craft the best homemade, makeshift vagina you’ve ever seen, complete with a birth canal.
Mariano’s seduction of Fauna extends to subliminal and direct suggestions that she forget and discard the rules of the outside world. In their new world, he says, nothing is off-limits. Nothing is taboo. There is no love, only declarations of love through physical actions.
Before you can shout ‘Run!’ poor Lucio is fending off Fauna’s aggressive advances. Spoiler alert: He fails, miserably, at staying chaste.
As a director, Minter immediately establishes himself as a visionary on par with acclaimed filmmakers like Gaspar Noé, Lars von Trier and Paul Verhoeven. He approaches sex with a fervor and refuses to follow Hollywood’s reluctance to show full-frontal male or female nudity. His two young leads actually spend much of the film completely naked with their genitalia front and center. When they have intercourse, they’re truly having intercourse on camera.
But this isn’t pornography, and thankfully it’s far removed from the awkward, uncomfortable misogyny of The Brown Bunny. Minter has much more on his mind. In his vision, the female body is the wellspring of life, and its recuperative powers can literally resurrect the dead.
I’m not going to pretend to understand everything that happens in We Are the Flesh, but BVB can attest that you won’t be able to stop watching. And the final scene – boy howdy – you will not expect it or see it coming. It’s a masterful stroke of genius that instantly makes you re-evaluate everything you’ve just seen from an entirely different perspective.
The Stuff You Care About: Hot chicks – Yes.
Nudity – Gratuitous. Gore – Yes.
Drug use – Yes.
Bad Guys/Killers – Societal perceptions.
Buy/Rent – Buy it.
Shut In (Fox, 91 minutes, PG-13, Blu-Ray): Shut In feels like a low-brow Blumhouse effort that should never have made its way into theaters despite starring Naomi Watts, Oliver Platt and Jacob Tremblay.
The movie is essentially about a child psychologist whose husband is killed in a horrific auto crash that leaves her teen-aged son in a vegetative state. So, Watts lives in seclusion in snowy New England, treating patients at her home office and communicating daily by Skype with her own therapist (Platt) while caring, bathing and tending to her unresponsive child.
That is, until another boy appears in the dark of night, which sets off a bizarre series of events meant to make you question whether the boy is a ghost or Watts is just crazy.
Make no mistake, Shut In is not a good horror movie. In fact, at about the 40-minute mark, BVB was ready to rename it Shut Off and hit eject on the DVD player. But two things happened that made us hold back.
First, the film took a wild swerve, and actually became interesting, albeit briefly, by suggesting that maybe Watts’ comatose son wasn’t actually comatose!
And then Watts got naked for a bath. That’s right, BVB could not resist the pull of boobs.
Thankfully, it was worth it only to find out – Spoiler Alert – that Watts’ son WAS FAKING being in a coma because he loves his momma something fierce and really enjoyed those sponge baths and didn’t want her attention to go away.
That’s right – the boy purposefully caused the crash that killed her husband so he could
live alone with his mother and enjoy some quality one-on-one time. And by quality, we mean, get busy in the Biblical way.
Shut In is a queasy experience in exploitation filmmaking. There’s no good setup for the big twist, which immediately overshadows all the other subplots, including the weird kid you’re not sure is a ghost or not. Suddenly, you’re watching a movie about a boy who loves his mother way too much and wants to love her a lot more. So, naturally, she has to fight him to the death.
Officer Downe (Magnolia Pictures, 91 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): Here’s a pro tip – it never works when you set out to make a great bad movie. Great bad movies happen organically. They can’t be manufactured.
Officer Downe is such an example of a wasted opportunity. Director Shawn Crahan, a founding member of Slipknot, working off a script by the creator of the source-material graphic novel, clearly loves B-movies, and he peppers his homage to over-the-top drive-in and exploitation features with several ridiculously cool scenes filled with gory carnage, hot latex-clad, gun-toting nuns and more.
But the bulk of the movie just falls flat, which is a supreme let-down, especially given the plot: A by-the-book patrol cop with a penchant for delirious violence serves as the Los Angeles Police Department’s secret weapon, an unstoppable, unflappable human Robocop on a nightly seek-and-destroy search for crime.
Sadly, the script lingers too long in the shallow end of the pool, focusing too much on silly visual gags, such as the Orgasm Meter, which appears in the corner of the screen whenever Officer Downe shacks up with his favorite prostitute (Note: Watching the film with a female friend, she remarked during one such scene that the meter was being a bit too generous with its double-digit “O” count).
Then there’s the trio of Big Bads who are bedeviling Officer Downe’s alternate-reality LA. Each of the three is either meant to be a human-animal hybrid, or just three criminal thugs wearing animal masks, but it’s never made clear why or how such creatures would exist in the real world if they really are human-like approximations of animals.
Not that Officer Downe spends a lot of time in the real world. After all, his go-go juice is siphoned from medical patient volunteers with specific genetic anomalies whose energy is harnessed and transferred via some combo of science and black magic to reanimate Downe’s body every time he is obliterated by bullets.
Like I said, there are some good ideas bouncing around Officer Downe, but the film as a whole is crippled by its seeming refusal to just have fun and be ridiculous. Even the original Robocop had a couple of clever quips. And Robocop, sadly, this ain’t.
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