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‘The Untamed’, aka ‘La Región Salvaje’ (review)

Produced by Fernanda De la Peza,
Amat Escalante, Jaime Romandia

Written by Amat Escalante, Gibrán Portela
Directed by Amat Escalante
Starring Ruth Ramos, Simone Bucio,
Jesús Meza, Eden Villavicencio,
Andrea Peláez, Oscar Escalante

 

Modern living can wreak havoc on our bodies and minds. Our industrialized society is rife with accoutrements that cause distress and disease – noise and light pollution, occupational stresses, programmatic paralysis and mass deforestation.

Some combat this assault on our senses with ancient treatments such as Forest Bathing. Others, such as the protagonists in The Untamed, choose the more unconventional method of sexual orificial stimulation in a rural barn with a miniature version of the squid monster from Watchmen.

As they say, “you do you.”

Amat Escalante’s psycho-sexual thriller does a masterful job of juxtaposing organic man-made terror with extraterrestrial enlightenment. It’s a shame that the film falls off the rails in the final minutes, falling victim to horror tropes of maximized body count – but there is much that makes The Untamed an effective and truly unique outing from the 2013 Cannes Best Director Winner.

For one, The Untamed is a movie about the perils of toxic masculinity that just happens to feature an alien sex squid in a barn (certainly the first … hopefully not the last).

Construction worker and manufactured macho man Angel (Jesus Meza) and Alejandra (Ruth Ramos) are a mismatched couple with two children. Angel leads a double life, engaging in an affair with Alejandra’s brother Fabien (Eden Villavicencio) who works as a nurse at a nearby hospital.

One fateful day, Fabien treats a mysterious bite mark on Veronica (Simone Bucio). Veronica and Fabien develop a friendly relationship through her ongoing rabies treatments, which leads to Veronica bringing Fabien to the location where she was “attacked”. Fabien is later found unconscious in a ditch.

Alejandra, in her quest for answers, discovers lewd and aggressive texts from Angel to Fabien. She contacts the authorities who arrest Angel, eventually exposing him and his family’s business in the tabloids to public ridicule for his alleged assault and repressed homosexuality.

Here is where the film really shines. Escalante effectively uses the alien squid, which crash landed via meteorite in a neighboring farm town and is being cared for by a pair of locals, as a metaphor for the natural world. Those who have sexual encounters with the squid report feelings euphoria, a deeper understanding of nature and a fear of returning to modern day trials and tribulations. Any manufactured feelings of guilt or shame are washed away, leaving a more pure, honest version of the partner.

In short, they get “woke” after squid sex.

But those who know, know that being woke isn’t a walk in the park. Once those proverbial glasses are on, you can’t take ‘em off.

The caretakers notice that repeat visits are getting too frequent and becoming increasingly dangerous. Veronica even strikes up forced relations with random men in an attempt to fornicate away her affection for the barn-based alien Aphrodite. Nevertheless, her resistance is futile and she ends up paying the price for her addiction.

And that’s where Escalante’s vision falls short. The concept of an arthouse alien squid film that showcases enlightenment via sexual healing is surely a concept that’s strong enough to stand on its own merits without becoming a “horror” film.

6 out of 8 tentacles.

P.S. I’d be remiss to not mention that there’s an multi-species animal orgy in the middle of the film that contextually makes sense and adds character depth and clarity. Enjoy.

 

The Untamed is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

 

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