Sunday, 11 June 2017


Come (cum?) for the slimy, multi-tentacled sex alien, stay for the tragic human drama.

Amat Escalante's THE UNTAMED (LA REGIÓN SALVAJE) is a complex drama about sexuality, desire, and the damage that can be done - to oneself and others - when a person's needs go unfulfilled or are rejected. The story follows unhappily married Ale, whose selfish husband Ángel is secretly fucking her gay brother, Fabián. This already bad situation is made nastier by the fact that Ángel is outwardly homophobic, and is torn apart by self-loathing for his uncontrollable urges. Into this toxic mix stumbles Verónica, a stranger with a dark secret that will change the lives of Ale, Ángel and Fabián forever.

Oh, and THE UNTAMED also features a creepy, Lovecraftian alien, marooned on Earth when the meteor it inhabited fell here, finding refuge with a kindly biologist and his wife. We never learn much about this mysterious creature, whether it needs to feed or reproduce for example. Its only biological function that we are made privy to is its desire to sexually "bond" with a human host, a highly invasive act that can result in either intense pleasure for its host, or an outcome that's far less desirable.

You should have worked out by now that the alien is a mirror for all the human drama that's unfolding around it. An allegorical entity that is a pure distillation of primal sexuality and its power to heal, elate, obsess and destroy. The creature's motivations for wanting to copulate (if that's even what it's doing. Perhaps it's communicating or just doing research?) are never made clear. Just like lust and love, it's kind of senseless. A force of nature. It just is.

The remarkable thing about THE UNTAMED is that I would estimate the creature's screen time to come in at well under a minute. The film could have the entire alien thread edited out and remain a satisfying non-genre work with a reasonable running time. Performances are good across the board, working off of Escalante and Gibrán Portela's solid screenplay, but without question the real star of the movie is that fleetingly glimpsed monster.

Although comparisons to Cronenberg are unavoidable, this thing is actually ripped straight from Andrzej Zulawski's  POSSESSION, a bold reference that's made explicit in the film's end credits. There's a shot in THE UNTAMED that's so cool because it's basically an update on the money shot from POSSESSION, and this particular moment is an absolute stunner. That and another SFX shot that precedes it by a minute or two are the most beautifully fucked-up and fantastic images that I've seen in a sci-fi horror film this year. Long after I've forgotten the rest of THE UNTAMED, those two images will remain indelibly burned on my mind's eye.

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