The bedroom is reeking. Some kind of mix of rot, old blood, saltwater permeates the air. The sheets are moist and dirty. The bed is a symbol of safety and rest. Of an everlasting place of refuge and security that one can always return to. But what happens when the bed is befouled? What once was pure now corrupted? When one’s trusted partner brings another into what once was just shared by just the two of you? Clean sheets spoiled by other bodies, other lusts.
In Amal Escalante’s film The Untamed, the main protagonist is Alejandra, a mother who longs for a life beyond her kids and her abusive lover. We also have Fabian, her brother who seeks forbidden pleasure beyond the norms of society, there is Angel, her lover who has a dark secret, and there is Veronica who is lost in the world until she finds something so extraordinary that it makes everything outside it unwanted and unlivable. All these characters are seeking something, they feel a call, a subconscious pull for something more. They go to work, take care of the kids, cook, clean, make love to the same person day after day, do what is expected of them socially, they keep a veneer of normality to keep them going, yet they seek something, no matter the cost, that will allow them to feel alive, to feel pleasure in an existence of drudgery and banality. The Untamed is a cold film, a film where it seems love has died unnoticed some time ago.
Yet, out of the black nothingness of outer space, an asteroid slowly comes to Earth, crashing into some remote part of the woods. And in this asteroid lay some kind of… thing. A thing more pure and focused than the confused people of the earth. It brings a carnality, unrefined. The animals flock to the impact site of the asteroid... and fuck over it. Reptiles, mammals, birds, all are affected by the atmosphere of flesh and desire that the alien thing brings. Sometime later, a couple finds the thing and hides it out in their secluded cabin. They bring it...lovers. Veronica is the latest girl that the couple has brought to the alien. In it, she has finally found something that is worth dedicating herself to, something that brings her pleasure and engagement like no other lover has ever done for her. But the thing is starting to grow violent in its lovemaking with Veronica, the couple urges her to stop, to prevent this from growing more and more dangerous, and to find it another lover. She finds Alejandra and sees the longing for something more in him and brings him to the alien. Then later on Veronica sees the troubles behind Fabian’s eyes, and brings her to the thing.
And what is this thing? A tentacled delirium lurking in the shadowy corners of a farmhouse. A thing hidden away inside an asteroid from the furthest reaches of space. The lover that is kept secret from your partner. An object of obsession and lust. A reason to wake up in the morning and continue to draw breath. It is a nightmare of tentacles and a face with no eyes. It is snakes and worms and everything that crawls and is animated by filthy desire. It is the thing inside caves and subterranean tunnels, it is the thing inside asteroids and sunless moons, it is the thing inside vaginas and the womb.
Everyone who meets the alien is irrevocably changed by the encounter. Their lives are simplified, their desires cemented. They know a happiness that before was unknown to them. Yet the thing is growing more violent in its lovemaking, causing puncture wounds and bruises. But it is never said it is angry or behaving in a different manner. Maybe, violence is tied into, in a fundamental way, desire and sexuality? Maybe we can’t fully love something unless it has the capacity to hurt us? All the characters in The Untamed have problematic relationships. Alejandra’s passionless partnership with Angel, Angel and Fabian’s secret shame-ridden affair, Veronica’s desperate seeking for anything that can match her addiction to the alien. Hurt and loneliness are a fact in all these relationships. What the alien offers is the ability to go beyond, to transcend the disappointments of life. After the alien the kids are neglected, jobs left dangling, relationships forgotten. The last scene is Ajejandra’s son pointing out a mysterious stain on her shirt as she picks him up from school, an obvious stain left there from lovemaking with the alien thing. She feels no shame or guilt, taking care of her children is just something she must do in between rounds of seeing her alien lover.
It would seem that horror films that deal with eroticism in a serious way is a minor thread in the cinematic tradition of horror cinema, but certainly one the most interesting. The closest film to The Untamed would have to be Zulawski’s Possession, a film about a relationship that is falling apart and the strange grotesquery that Anna takes as a lover as she cuckolds her husband Mark. I wonder what other films would fall into a “female desire of the monstrous'' subgenre if we consider this as such. I think of Julia in Hellraiser and Hellraiser 2 seeking monstrous revelation and finding it, I think of Thomasin’s deliverance in The Witch through a horned man and a book signed in blood, I think of Antichrist with a grieving mother finding her true self in chaos and evil. I think of how Ripley keeps going back to the Xenomorph in Alien. It seems to be a rare thing, the horror film about women and their secrets lusts, with a decidedly unsympathetic stance against the male point of view. These women desire the rotten, the corrupted, the evil, and the disgraced. The view of woman as home keeper, child raiser, devoted wife, is taken to with a wrecking ball with these films. The plunge into the abject, the worship of what destroys you, is at the heart of this subgenre. In The Untamed, love is a lie, inside we are all alien things that desire and lust after what can never be had, until death do us part.