Aimless, despicable teens are nothing new in films (Kids, Thirteen or generally any Larry Clark or Harmony Korine film) but the kids in We give them all a run for their money. So, you might say that this isn’t a horror film and you’d right it isn’t a horror film but it is certainly sits at the same table, horror is about boundary pushing and this film certainly does that.
Eight teens, all of them best friends spend their summer trying to stave off boredom. Boredom is the catalyst for experimentation of course and as the kids try to keep themselves, amused the stakes begin to rise leading to sex, porn, prostitution and murder. The group is led by Thomas (Claeys), a scuzzy moustached, little sociopathic prick. He really is the ringleader of it all and such a hate-able on screen character that you cannot even believe what he is saying even when it could actually be the truth, which is probably a combination of good writing and excellent character work by Claeys. The rest of the group gets various screen time, the one that stands out is Ruth (Jacobs) she gets the most to do besides Thomas, and Jacobs is exceptional. Managing to portray the fresh faced, care free Ruth but also her other side being manipulative and dangerous. However, it must be said that the entire ensemble is excellent together, they look like they have been friends forever and that does help the story immensely.
We definitely pushes boundaries (just as the book of the same name that the film is based on) and its intent is to shock. Early on sexually graphic scenes (penetration etc.) set the tone and it is the kind of stuff that could be easily edited out but We seems to wallow in the gratuity of every single thing the group does. As the excess gets… excessive, it all mixes into a malaise of awful shit with brick by brick of terrible things being stacked on another.
Eller directs this well, capturing that feeling of being young and carefree. It is directed without judgement, just showing you the events that unfold before you with no filter. The film really doubles down on the millennial need for instant gratification, however this is not to say the adults in the film aren’t just as capable of these things. It’s about the pleasure they can get and the power they can grab, even better when these two things merge. A millennial fuck-fest with any thoughts of love or care kept to themselves, it is all about the instant gratification whether the poison is sex or death. When the group turns to prostitution as a get rich quick scheme, there is little to no hesitation. The currency is sex and with that they buy power – not in a ‘girl power’ sense but they get their power hit by being in control of their lecherous customers, some of these customers have high community standings and as such they now have this dark secret that they can hold over them. Even when their house of debauchery comes crashing down around them, the need for power, the need to prove that they’re better than everyone else is on display in an ending that is depressing but also ambiguous as to the reasoning for doing what they did, which just hammers home the point. Nihilistic existence isn’t fun unless you’re getting what you want all the time.
We (Wij) is available on DVD from Artsploitation Films February 18, 2020. On VOD/Streaming in April.
Ryan Morrissey-Smith | Twitter: @TigersMS78
Image: Artsploitation Films