Cast: Ruth Ramos, Simone Bucio, and Jesus Meza
Director: Amat Escalante
100 minutes (18) 2016
Widescreen ratio 1.66:1
Arrow Academy DVD Region 2
Review by Andrew Darlington
Mexican horror films have a long history of weirdness, with their own distinctive brand of strangeness. Think Guillermo del Toro’s Cronos (1993). While it’s worth bearing in mind that Luis Bunuel produced a slew of formative films, including his The Exterminating Angel (1962), during his Mexican sojourn. Elements of both creepy strands are here in these wide empty landscapes, open skies, and drifts of forest rain made eerie by atmospheric music. Premiered at the 2016 Venice film festival where Amat Escalante won Silver Lion for best director, it follows the auteur’s equally challenging drug-war crime-drama Heli (2013).
It begins with a naked girl having what looks like tentacle-sex. She has a non-human demon lover imprisoned in a secret room in a cabin in the woods. The nameless Cthulhu look-alike fell to Earth in a meteor-strike into what the film’s original title calls ‘The Wild Region’. She either found the house by accident, or was drawn inexorably into it. There’s a remarkable orgy of copulating creatures in the meteor crater as testament to its erotic powers of attraction. Caretaker scientist Senor and Marta Vega explain that “what’s there in the cabin is our primitive side, in its most basic and purest state.” Well, maybe a touch impure too!
The girl is the blankly beautiful ‘Vero’ – Veronica (Simone Bucio). Did her alien encounter hurt? No, “it can only give pleasure.” Yet she’s next seen wounded and bleeding, limping through the forest mist. Alien-sex can obviously be a little rough at times, as well as ecstatically addictively. She visits the Guanajuanto hospital for puncture-wounds she claims are dog bites, and flirts with gay doctor Fabian (Eden Villavicencio). It transpires they’re both trapped in destructive relationships. Perhaps unwisely, he trusts her.
Acting as a kind of pimp for the octopoid penis-tentacled monstrosity, Vero becomes catalyst in the lives of a tight trio of working-class losers. The gentle Doctor Fabian is having a raw affair with his macho outwardly-homophobic brother-in-law Jose ‘Angel’ Rocha (Jesus Meza). While the swarthy Angel is married to Fabian’s sister ‘Ale’ – Alejandre (Ruth Ramos), the mum of their two bratty sons. Joylessly, Angel takes her from behind, while she prefers to masturbate in the shower.
Yes, it’s all pretty explicit, while also running in the groove of two parallel narratives. The gritty everyday mundane bits of life where she works in a candy factory and son Ivan has a chocolate allergy, while veggie Angel fights his guilty desire for ‘super-faggot’ Fabian, and the boys watch zombie-horror on TV. There’s graffiti in the alleyway and brawls in the bar.
It all goes into meltdown when Vero induces Fabian to visit the cabin in the woods, telling him “it’ll like you.” The paramedic responders subsequently retrieve his comatose naked body from the wetland, victim of head trauma and sexual assault. Angel is wrongly arrested and jailed for the attack. Inquisitive Ale reads Angel’s cell-phone messages and learns of their affair. Soon, she’s drugged with tea and entangled at the cabin in the woods too, penetrated in oral and vaginal coils of octopus sex in a kind of calamari gang-bang. So will she return for more? Yes, she nods. Even random sex with a pick-up stranger can’t compete or cure her of so powerful a need.
If it’s meant to be gratuitous art-porn, there are long slow sequences of decorative longueur to deter prurient thrill-seekers. It works better as an escapist metaphor for the immaculate orgasmic kick. And the narcotic dangers of achieving that higher plane of sensual experience, where the next hit is so good it’s terminal. Sometimes, what you wish for can kill you. Your darkest desires, your ‘primitive side in its most basic and purest state’ are maybe best left buried deep in your psyche.
Angel is released by the police, but ostracised by his family. In an attempted reconciliation with Ale he manages to shoot himself in the leg. She loads him into the truck, but predictably doesn’t take him to hospital, but drags him through the forest, lays him out on the white mattress in the darkened room of the cabin for the waiting alien cephalopod. ‘The bodies’ it seems, ‘are piling up.’ Mexican horror films can be weird, with their own distinctive brand of strangeness.