La Region Salvaje (The Untamed) review — A slow burn poem about the power of pleasure

Written 5/20/17

The Overlook Film Festival got stranger and stranger as, on my second day on Mt. Hood, I sat down to watch some South American tentacle porn. Who knew that not only would I be enjoying my first food gore film, but that the Overlook would also show me what it feels like to ship a beaten housewife and an intergalactic octopus.

Joking aside, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. The more I think about it the more glad I am that I saw it. I was definitely dazed when walking out of that theater, trying to process, but now that I’ve had time to mull, I found The Untamed incredibly impressive.

For starters, this film was in Spanish (as the title may suggest). Now, I have absolutely nothing against foreign language films, but I do often find it more difficult to connect with the characters. Not because of the subtitles, but because if I don’t know the language being spoken, it’s harder to understand various inflections and phrases which in most cases are key to fully understanding a character. The Untamed broke through the language barrier to deliver completely fleshed out, deep, complex, and heartbreaking characters, even to us lowly English speakers. I fell in love with each and every one of them (except of course the asshole husband, but I was still in love with his development!).

On the surface we’re watching a slow-burning sci-fi, alongside the drama of a broken home. Explored under the surface is a fascinating question: how far can we go in the search for pleasure? Humanity is always evolving, especially in regards to social issues and moral decisions. 2017 is a year ripe with sexual empowerment; we MAY feel pleasure, we MAY seek it out, we DON’T have to hide it; but at what point does pleasure again become dangerous? Is it possible to get so wrapped up in our own sexual growth that we become numb to pain and death? It seems ludicrous to even ask. Of course there are other things more important in life than an orgasm! But for people like Alejandra, who have been sexually repressed for so long, maybe it isn’t such an insane question. For people like Veronica, perpetually alone, so desperate for connection, finding something that gives intense pleasure but maintains its mystery, everything else in life fades to the background, including murder.

Tied to these queries is a wonderfully full plot, complete with closeted homosexuality, domestic abuse, murder trials, and depression. If I were to summarize it (which I will try to do because the trailer is unhelpful): Alejandra is an average mother of two in an unsatisfying marriage to a giant prick. Veronica is on the outs with her alien boyfriend and needs to find him a new bae. In the middle there’s some gay sex and a lot of shouting, but all in all Veronica and Alejandra team up to satisfy the ever changing needs of a lust-driven extraterrestrial (tone intended ironically; this was a very quiet and serious film).

I was a little disappointed at first that they did indeed show the creature. I have much appreciation for monster movies that never show the monster. I think, however, it worked out well in the end. An argument can be made that we didn’t actually need to see the tentacle sex to get the gist, but something about the overwhelming way in which the creature envelops its “victims”, and how it moves across their skin, helps us understand why these people go as far as they do to hold on to that experience. And, I apologize, but it is pretty hot. Also, impressive CGI for such a small film.

The message was subtle enough that I’m not entirely positive I’m in the right with my interpretation (and I would absolutely love for someone to argue against my view!), but regardless of what exactly it was trying to say, The Untamed is a film like nothing I’ve ever seen, and I enjoyed every minute.

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