Saturday, 26 October 2019

Shudder Saturday: The Untamed (2016)

It's always odd, but also oddly satisfying, when a film featuring some very alien designs, and ideas, ends up making a lot of interesting points about humanity, our various relationships, and the nature of love. It happens on so many occasions, of course, with film-makers using the eyes of an outsider to coolly look on at the complex contradictions we carry around throughout our lives, but it's always a pleasant surprise.

The Untamed is another of those movies. It may not resonate in the same way as something like The Man Who Fell To Earth or Under The Skin, for example, but it certainly amounts to more than what it may seem to be at first glance, which is a film containing people who have sex with a tentacle-wriggling alien beastie.

Simone Bucio is Verónica, a young woman who . . . has sex with a tentacle-wriggling alien beastie. It lives in a barn. Verónica seems to enjoy visiting the barn. But things change when she is bitten, which means she has to go to hospital for some treatment. There she meets the handsome Fabián (Eden Villavicencio), and there may be the chance to start a relationship with someone who can have fulfil her without using tentacles. It's complicated though, because Fabián has been having a secret affair with Ángel (Jesús Meza), who is married to Alejandra (Ruth Ramos), who is Fabián's sister. You can see how things can develop from one messy situation to the next, while the alien in the barn just waits patiently for people to visit it when the urge takes them.

Directed by Amat Escalante, who also co-wrote the script with Gibrán Portela, this may seem like a bit of a departure for them when you look at previous films they have worked on, but it's actually not too far removed (especially for Portela, who wrote Juegos Inocentes about a decade ago). The horror elements, and the sci-fi heart of things, all push snugly against very identifiable issues for the main characters. An unsatisfying marriage, people taking more risks as they try to find sexual pleasure, betrayal, and more. Take away the alien and you have something that could be a very familiar melodrama. Add it in there and you have something that's a little bit more interesting, and a lot darker.

All four of the leads are equally good, with Bucio dominating the proceedings in the first half, so intriguing as she seems intent on weaning herself away from one damaging relationship by getting herself mixed up in another that could prove damaging in a different way. Funnily enough, despite some of the plotting, this is a film that flips some cinematic gender stereotypes, with the female characters often more confident and sure in their own bodies than the male characters. That means that  Ramos becomes just as interesting to watch as Bucio, as narrative strands start to weave together, but also lends more weight to the performances of both Villavicencio and Meza than might otherwise have been the case.

More thought-provoking than you might think a film about a barn-dwelling squirmy alien that just wants to sex people up could be, this is well worth your time. As long as you're prepared to spend some time being bemused as the narrative writhes and wriggles as much as the glimpsed creature.

8/10

You can buy the movie here.



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