Emotional domestic drama meets tentacled sex horror flick – that doesn’t happen often, does it?
Veronica (Bucio) is a rootless young loner with a secret: a wonderful off-planet lover who lives in a cabin in the woods. After she ‘shares the love’ with a young doctor (Villavicencio) and his sister Ale (Ramos), their lives are traumatised.
Escalante made Heli, the grimy and disturbing story of a family caught up in the lower levels of Mexico’s ongoing drug cartel wars. That film explored notions of powerlessness, passivity and victimhood in the contemporary Mexican experience. There’s something similar going on in The Untamed (original title La Region Salvaje), albeit with the focus on the Catholic, middle class, conservative familial overcoding of sexuality.
Abused wife Ale finds a freedom of sorts in the loss of control that comes with alien sex – and eventually is even able to use it as a way of regaining control over her non-fantasy life.
Escalante is able to keep things gritty and credible despite the alien sex angle. He builds the drama out of long slow landscape shots and tighter domestic sequences of Ale, her husband and in-laws at war over the dinner table and the kitchen sink. This slow build means that the CGI sequences, when they arrive, aren’t as odd as they might have been.
The message seems to be a counsel of despair, a fantasy happy ending that’s straining to keep itself together. I find any film’s emotional dependence on the given-ness of alien intelligence to be slightly bizarre, an act of faith in the off-planet that you might call sci-fi Christianity.
The Untamed is out on Blu-ray and DVD on 9 October 2017.