Review: The Untamed

Director(s)Amat Escalante
Principal CastRuth Ramos as Alejandra
Simone Bucio as Veronica
Jesus Meza as Angel
Eden Villavicencio as Fabian
Release Date2016
Language(s)Spanish
Running Time 100 minutes

The Untamed is a thought provoking story about the depths of sexuality and the way that humans have codified and defined themselves in relations to those articulations creating a disconnect between ourselves and our inner most desires. The story plays out like a well thought out Mexican drama featuring staples of the genre: secrets, the stratification of sexuality and gender, violence, inner turmoil; but adds in a extraterrestrial tentacle sex creature for good measure, giving the movie an element of visual horror and making the themes go to the next level. If you ever thought The Shape of Water needed to be creepier and more unnerving instead of romantic, this is the movie for you.

The first scene in the movie depicts Veronica, a young women, who’s in the middle of orgasming due to her alien counterpart. The creature ends up injuring her, and two elder individuals who own the farm where the creature crash landed, ask Veronica to cease relations with it . Suffering from a new wound, she finds herself at a hospital, being treated kindly by a nurse, who she slowly befriends. Meanwhile, in another part of the city Alejandra, the film’s protagonist, deals with her unhappy domestic life. Her husband, Angel (ironic I know) uses her for sexual gratification but is rarely there for her. As the two groups’ stories interconnect, what follows is a sexual journey that’s harrowing, impossible to look away from, and deeply unsettling.

The movie deals with our relations to sex and sexuality. Every character’s orientation and reasons for wanting sex are coded differently. Watching those interactions play out with the sex monster in the background creates an interesting discussion on the place of sexuality and the way it’s deployed and internalized by rational agents. There are constantly scenes that juxtapose humans with animals to highlight the differences in how each group approaches their more base desires. Add in the ideas and themes of a well-rounded drama on top of that, and suddenly you have a piece that’s teeming with nuanced discussions. This is one of the most thought provoking movies I’ve seen on sex and sexuality in a long time.

That being said, the movie never exploits it’s premise to create fantasy sex sequences for the audience. Escalante is focused on the element of sexuality, not the visual depiction and subsequently goes to great efforts to show only glimpses of the creature and sexual actions. The camera slowly moves throughout important scenes, without revealing the shocking event at play until the very end. This is visual storytelling done right. Scenes and the way they’re shot and edited lead you to certain conclusions which are subverted in a way to make you sympathize with the characters and make future decisions more shocking.

The creature is rarely ever shown, except in tidbits and pieces, so its eventual reveal is well earned and horrifying. This is a creature feature done right, and I genuinely couldn’t avert my gaze when it’s full visage came onto screen. This process of slow reveals, building tension, and letting it all explode in one final reveal feels like the process of foreplay and sexual gratification, so the entire experience feels sublime and thematically resonant.

My biggest issue with the movie is a sub-plot involving some less involved characters that never plays out as much as I wanted it too. I like how they’re incorporated thematically, but I wish they made more sense from a story perspective, because they’re the only real aspects of the movie (sans the sex alien) that aren’t grounded. There are also a few moments where characters talk a bit too much , making some of the underlying ideas a bit more heavy-handed. I love how subtle the storytelling is, so these moments bothered me more than they would most other people.

Report Card

TLDRThe Untamed combines a well-executed and thought out drama with a creature feature involving an sex alien with tentacles. It’s well paced, prefers to show rather than tell, and presents one of most interesting discourses on sex/sexuality that I’ve seen in recent years. The movie prioritizes atmosphere and mood over visceral images and jump scares, so if you like the latter you may find yourself bored by this.
Rating9.3/10
Grade A

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