Following 2013’s breathtakingly violent crime drama Heli, Mexican auteur Amat Escalante returns with his fourth feature, a challenging film which earned him the Silver Lion at Venice in 2016. Part oblique allegory, part out-there body-horror, The Untamed is an unholy fusion of Lovecraftian sci-fi and social realist drama which centres on the entangled relationships of Alejandra (Ruth Ramos); her violent husband Angel (Jesus Meza), who is having an affair with his brother-in-law; and the mysterious Veronica (Simone Bucio).
To say any more about the narrative or the extra-terrestrial element (voiced by musician Jenny Hval) would spoil the fun. Suffice it to say that the unsettling result goes beyond mere provocation. The Untamed is a potent critique of the endemic homophobia and misogyny in working-class Mexico, and also functions as a vivid, outlandish examination of repressed sexual desires, calling to mind both Andrzej Zulawski’s Possession and the unsettling eroticism conjured up by Jonathan Glazer’s terrific Under the Skin.
Even if Escalante’s latest ultimately doesn’t match the disturbing impact of 2016’s equally allegorical but far more transgressive We Are the Flesh – another Mexican production that daringly meshed body-horror with graphic sexuality to perturbing effect – you won’t be able to escape its constricting tendrils, no matter how hard you try.
The Untamed I Directed by Amat Escalante (Mexico 2016) with Ruth Ramos, Jesus Meza. Starts January 11.
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