The Untamed

Review by Mark Allison @clueddownmark

Directed by

Amat Escalante

Starring

Fernando Corona Kenny Johnston Simone Bucio

Anticipation.

Mexican tentacle erotica? I’d rather not.

Enjoyment.

A disjointed but satisfyingly gruesome study in human sexuality.

In Retrospect.

For better or worse, you won’t be forgetting this one in a hurry.

A family is torn apart because of their sexual obsession with a tentacled beast in this strange, grim pseudo-horror.

All good science-fiction uses a fantastical concept to say something meaningful about more earthly matters. With The Untamed, director Amat Escalante has duly fused elements of social-realist drama with extra-terrestrial erotica. The result is not merely an exercise in grotesque body horror, but a study of human sexual desire, and how succumbing to internal longings can be both liberating and destructive.

The guiding drama is an ostensibly conventional love triangle between Ángel (Jesús Meza), his wife Alejandra (Ruth Ramos), and her brother Fabián (Eden Villavicencio). This realistic set-up is complicated by the addition of an amorous tentacle monster from outer space, which gradually becomes an outlet for repressed sexual desires. This alien is little more than a collection of slimy pink appendages, almost laughably phallic in design. Its role is not so much as an otherworldly being as it is a representation of pure human lust, a point which the film hammers home somewhat laboriously.

Indeed, Escalante announces his carnal intentions boldly and unambiguously from the film’s first moments. An abstract opening image of an asteroid floating in space quickly gives way to a dimly-lit shot of a naked woman, Verónica (Simone Bucio), engaged in coitus with an slimy tentacle. It’s a starling and uncomfortable image which provides only a flavour of what’s to come. From here, the perverse sexual ecstasy granted by the creature is an overbearing presence, contrasted against the dull sex and general tedium of everyday life.

This conflict between primitive needs and societal expectations serves as the key to the film. The “untamed” of the title could just as well refer to any of the human characters as it could the monster, with each struggling to consolidate their lust with the compromises of their relationships. Within the alien they find a release of unfiltered pleasure – but at what cost?

These ideas and imagery are all appropriately stimulating and disturbing, if a little heavy-handed. But the film lacks a narrative rigour to communicate them effectively, with meandering scenes of family bickering and prolonged sequences of inter-species intercourse which sometimes feel like provocation for the sake of it. For an experience so heavily concerned with sensuality, the lasting impression is oddly distant.

Published 17 Aug 2017

Anticipation.

Mexican tentacle erotica? I’d rather not.

Enjoyment.

A disjointed but satisfyingly gruesome study in human sexuality.

In Retrospect.

For better or worse, you won’t be forgetting this one in a hurry.

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