So first up we have James Wan’s Insidious starring Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne. For the first half, the film unfolds in a pretty generic way. Wilson plays the oblivious husband who doesn’t believe creepy things are happening, while Byrne’s the nutty stay at home wife who can’t help but overact to everything. She cries a lot while he’s nonchalant, and when they do talk, they end up arguing. That’s the first half of the film and it does get pretty tedious at times watching how each cliché plays out. Then a team of ghost hunters are introduced and this is when the film takes off. Heading the team is a frightening woman (Lin Shaye)) who can communicate with ghosts and easily steals the show. She and her dorky sidekicks stage a séance in the house that is very reminiscent of those old Hong Kong horror films from the 90s with Helena Law Lan.
From there on the film heads straight to third act madness. Wan throws everything at his audience, cheesy effects, the generous use of mist to generate atomsphere and overacting. And for better or worse, all of it does give the film a needed jolt. What Insidious turns into is a ridiculous but entertaining mess to watch.
Next we have We Are What We Are (Somos lo que hay), a 2010 film from Mexico directed by Jorge Michel Grau. It centers around a poverty stricken family living in the fringes of Mexico who also happen to be cannibals. The patriarch of the family has been found dead and the question that the family is left to face with is whether they should continue with their bloody ritual or not. There’s very little display of mayhem or cannibalism, instead what Grau does is contrast the family’s nasty habit with each members’ struggle with their own identity. We follow Alfredo (Francisco Barreiro) as he comes to terms with accepting the role of being the head of the family and discovering who he is. We see him bicker with his loose cannon younger brother Julian (Alan Chavez) and manipulative little sister Sabina (Paulina Gaitan). And then there’s mom (Carmen Beato), who’s one of the most vicious and vile onscreen characters in recent memory.
The subject matter is handled in an assured and contemplative way. Grau never goes for cheap scares or sentimentality. He allows the nastiness of the story to seep through the surface with long quiet shots. The film is lavishly shot by Santiago Sanchez; he manages to capture the stench and filth in a rich cinematic way.