There’s a lot going on in Amat Escalante’s The Untamedl, which makes for an intriguing journey that doesn’t stick its landing. There’s a great deal to take away from Escalante’s film but when a movie dares to be so strange and often thought-provoking, it should end with more than just a shrug.
The movie opens in a thick fog, effectively piling on the ominous imagery and tone from the beginning, as a young woman (Simone Bucio) is being pleasured by something otherworldly in a remote barn. We know what the creature is and even get hints of where it came from but should you chose to see The Untamed, you’ll want to experience it with as little knowledge as possible.
Shortly after, we meet Alejandra (Ruth Ramos), a mother of two, who is married to Ángel (Jesús Meza). Their marriage brings a whole separate level of tension to the movie because Ángel has been having an affair with Alejandra’s brother, Fabián (Eden Villavicencio).
“…another interesting addition to the horror genre, which has seen an uptick in quality this year.”
The Untamed isn’t just a monster movie, a horror film or a science fiction one. It’s a domestic drama with fantastical elements throughout, which hover over the film rather than run concurrently with other storylines. Alejandra and Ángel’s marriage bring up questions of fidelity and homosexuality and how both are perceived in their Mexican community.
Everything – from the barn to its inhabitant – could be seen as a heavy-handed symbol for Ángel’s yearning and Alejandra’s loneliness but Escalante doesn’t hit us over the head with any of that. He lets his film unfold slowly, while increasing the tension as the movie progresses (he won a Best Director prize at last year’s Venice Film Festival).
The movie ends a bit abruptly and without any true sense of closure. It runs the risk of leaving you cold and making movie’s journey seem like it was almost for nothing. Even so, Escalante deserves credit for making a horror film that doesn’t rely on the obvious because The Untamed never opts for the obvious route. Though problematic, The Untamed is another interesting addition to the horror genre, which has seen an uptick in quality this year.
The Untamed (2017) Directed by: Amat Escalante. Written by: Amat Escalante and Gibran Portela. Starring: Ruth Ramos, Jesús Meza, Eden Villavicencio and Simone Bucio.