Let’s get physical, fiends! And I’m not talking about aerobics. Nope, what I am talking about is sex! And not just sex, but freaky sex at that!
You may ask what this has to do with horror movies. Well, when the intercourse involves a human and a non-human creature, it becomes incredibly horrific. So let’s get it started with today’s double feature of The Special and The Untamed.
The Special is a rather distasteful concept with a nasty twist. Jerry suspects his wife is cheating on him, and after he divulges this to his friend Mike during a night out drinking, Mike decides to try and cheer Jerry up. He takes Jerry to a brothel run by sometimes psychic Madame Zhora. Mike tells Jerry that the best way to get past his feelings and get back at his wife is to do a little cheating of his own. Once at the brothel, Mike asks Madame Zhora for “the special” for Jerry.
Jerry is then led to a room occupied by only a bed and a box. The box has a padlock and a hole with the words “Stick It In Here” next to an arrow painted on it. Dubious at first, Jerry removes his member and inserts himself into the hole. He experiences an orgasm greater than any he has ever experienced and loses consciousness. Madame Zhora finds him and becomes angry. She tells Mike he can never bring Jerry back to her establishment. Mike takes Jerry home, and when Jerry asks, he tells him he will not reveal the brothel’s location. (bummer – Shawn)
Jerry subsequently discovers his wife is pregnant, but he is already too far gone after that first experience. He is obsessed with “the special” and, like a drug addict, descends into a path of sexual addiction, murder, madness, and body horror.
The Special is incredibly upfront in its metaphor of addiction. After that first experience with the special, Jerry is addicted. He kills to get it, and once he has it, he kills to keep it. Watching this, you have to wonder what in the hell is in that box. Rest assured, as the film progresses, that question gets answered, but the revelation only serves to make the movie even more disturbing.
Having sex with “the special” isn’t just affecting Jerry emotionally; the experience also affects his health, ultimately leading to horrifying and gory results. Body horror fans are sure to be delighted by the sheer nastiness of the conclusion.
The Special is incredibly low budget, and it shows. Not that the film looks bad, but it almost has a soap opera look where the camera work is concerned. The acting is sufficient, and at its worst, never devolves into the realm of schlock. I cannot say that anything here comes as a surprise, but its concept and creepiness are honest, and that’s enough to really sell this one.
The Untamed, by comparison, deals with a similar concept, although with considerably more thoughtfulness. Add a high level of acting and filmmaking, and this one really excels. As the film begins, Veronica has just had sex with an alien creature that has left her with bite wounds. The beast grows weary of its partners and makes this known through violence. Meanwhile, we meet Alejandra and Angel, whose relationship has grown stale. They are basically still together because they have two sons. Angel is also having an affair with Fabian, Alejandra’s gay brother. Despite how Angel publicly Angel berates gay culture in general, he finds more passion with Fabian. Fabian meets Veronica at his job as a nurse when she comes in to get the bites from the alien treated. They form a fast friendship, and not long after, she takes him to the farm home where an older couple keeps the alien. We learn that the couple found the creature in a crater, and after seeing how the crash site of the alien has become a breeding ground for many types of animals, the husband in the couple has documented how people have become attracted to it. It seems the sex with the creature is not only pleasurable but gifts the person afterward with a sense of peace and serenity despite the troubles that may exist in their lives. Encountering the creature will impact these four people in ways that they may not survive.
The Untamed takes a strange and horrific concept and executes it with thoughtfulness and art. The film’s original title should have translated as The Savage Region, which I think would have been fitting. The characters are not so much dealing with an addiction to sex but a hunger for truth and connection. Fabian presents Veronica as his girlfriend, but his sexuality is evident to everyone around him. But he does feel a connection to her which is at least something. Even his affair with Angel is destined for failure, and a part of him knows that. Angel is a man living a lie of his masculinity and his sexual identity, and Alejandra is not honest with how lonely she is or unhappy in her marriage. And Veronica is lonely but runs from connection with other people. So despite how bizarre sex with a tentacled creature is the feeling of peace and connection these people feel is worth the risk of injury.
The whole look of the film and the acting elevate the film to high art. All the actors in this film sink themselves into the parts. You don’t sense these are people playing parts. They all perform with such honesty and shamelessness, which is impressive considering the subject matter. The general tone of the film and look of the film is reminiscent of the films of David Lynch. Spaces feel haunting and ominous. The film is in the same league with other Mexican films We Are The Flesh and Tigers Are Not Afraid.
Maybe I am wrong, but both of these films feel like they tread in some pretty rare territory. The one other film that comes to mind is Possession which I sadly have not seen, and unless something changes with an American release or streaming, I don’t know when I will get to see it. So why not take this road down the unusual and sexual with these horror movies. The Special is available for rent, but if you have Prime video or Hoopla, you can watch it ad-free or with ads on Tubi and The Untamed is on Shudder and Kanopy and rentable from Vudu, YouTube, and Alamo Drafthouse.