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?
Two new genre films approach the delicate subject of incest with wildly different agendas. One is far superior to the other, and — truth be told — may well be one of the boldest, bravest, most out-there cinematic experiences you’ve ever had.
That would be We Are the Flesh, the debut feature from Mexican writer-director Emiliano Rocha Minter, who has crafted a nearly-indecipherable, yet compulsively watchable, story about family love, self-love, group love and the omnipotence of the vagina.
The other film is Shut In, but more on that later.
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 suggests 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 moral rules of the outside world. In their new existence, 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 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.
We Are the Flesh
Genre: Psychedelic art-house
Directed by: Emiliano Rocha Minter
Run time: 89 minutes
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot Chicks – Yes.
Nudity – Gratuitous.
Gore – Minimal.
Drug use – Yes.
Bad Guys/Killers – Societal norms.
Buy/Rent – Buy it.
Released – February 28, 2017
From sisters dominating brothers on command and under suggestive influence, let’s turn our attention to the oldest form of incest, the Oedipus complex, which suddenly and without warning takes center stage in Shut In.
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 (Tremblay) 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 enjoys those sponge baths and doesn't want to lose her full attention.
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.
There you have it, boils and ghouls.
In Mexico, it’s OK to abandon societal pretenses and shack up with a sibling because all life amounts to is a series of physical declarations, particularly during possibly apocalyptic times.
But in the good old U.S.A., all it will get you is a long dive in a deep lake with no extra sponge time.
Love, ain’t it grand?
Directed by: Farren Blackburn
Run time: 91 minutes
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Naomi Watts, one hot momma.
Nudity – Yes!
Gore – Minimal.
Bad Guys/Killers – A bad, bad boy.
Buy/Rent – Rent (if you’re bored)
Released – February 28, 2017
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