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New to Shudder - THE UNTAMED

the untamed review
A young rural Mexican family is torn apart by the arrival of a strange young woman who introduces them to a mysterious tentacled creature.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Amat Escalante

Starring: Simone Bucio, Fernando Corona, Jesus Meza, Ruth Ramos, Eden Villavicencio

the untamed poster

Over a relatively short directorial career, Mexican filmmaker Amat Escalante has given us more than his share of shocking images. His latest, The Untamed (whose Spanish title translates as 'The Savage Region', a reference both geographic and genital), opens with another doozy. Following a Malickian tableau of celestial movement, we quickly return to earth with a medium closeup of a young naked woman, Veronica (the waifish Simone Bucio; think a latin Charlotte Gainsbourg), who appears to be pleasuring herself. When the camera tracks out however we catch a glimpse of a Lovecraftian tentacle extracting itself from her nether regions. It's an experience Veronica appears to have taken much pleasure from. Off screen, a voice tells her she must leave. "Can't I stay just a little longer?" she pleads.

We're then introduced to young couple Alejandra (Ruth Ramos) and Angel (Jesus Meza). The latter is having an affair with the former's doctor brother Fabian (Eden Villavicencio), and attempts to cover his tracks by spouting a stream of homophobic abuse whenever Alejandra mentions her sibling. When Veronica arrives in Fabian's clinic with an indefinable wound on her abdomen, the doctor unsurprisingly assumes her a victim of domestic abuse. He asks if she is in a relationship. When she replies in the affirmative, he inquires if her lover is a boy or a girl. "I'm not sure," she answers.

We soon learn that Veronica's boy/girlfriend is a tentacled beasty that lives in a barn, protected by an elderly couple. A nearby crater suggests its origins may be otherworldy. In an incredibly arresting images, animals from a dozen or more species come together for an orgy in the pit - lizards, snakes, goats, horses, dogs; the logistics are staggering. I'm still unsure if it's an image that's beautifully disturbing or disturbingly beautiful. Either way, it's quite something!

Those of us outside Mexico rely on the media for a picture of that country, and the two most common images are of an idyllic countryside that attracts tourists from its richer Northern neighbour and a drug gang infested hellscape (see Escalante's own Heli for the latter). The setting of The Untamed couldn't be further from either stereotype. Its portrait of smalltown Mexico is one that will prove recognisable for anyone with experience of rural life, a place where boredom can lead to addiction, be it drugs, alcohol or sex with tentacled aliens.

Escalante's film owes more than a little to Andrzej Zulawski's 1981 masterpiece Possession, another tale of a young woman escaping an unhappy marriage by copulating with a slithering mass. Alejandra - who takes the place of Veronica as the alien's lover when the latter becomes literally spent by its carnal power - doesn't adopt the extreme deranged behaviour of Isabelle Adjani in the Polish auteur's film, but she does experience an awakening, transforming from a quiet victim of her society's Catholic influenced chauvinism to a liberated woman who stands up for herself, against her husband and her disapproving mother-in-law, and against popular morality by indulging in a form of sexual pleasure most would deem her sick for enjoying. Good for her!

Depending on how far you personally embrace the idea of 'live and let live' when it comes to sexual gratification, The Untamed will play as either a sickening piece of shock cinema or a celebration of the physical pleasures enjoyed by all creatures, be they humans, animals or Alejandra's beast with benefits. Like any addictive force, regardless of your experience with The Untamed, it's a film you may find yourself wishing to revisit.

The Untamed is on Shudder UK now.