The Untamed is a startling, disquieting, baffling and unforgettable film

This. This right here. This is the kind of movie you go to the Calgary Underground Film Festival for. 

Director Amat Escalante’s Spanish-language The Untamed is a startling, disquieting, baffling, and original motion picture of the sort that could never find an audience in a multiplex. 

If I were to describe the more shocking and outlandish scenes of this Mexican film — and believe me, the temptation to do so is overwhelming, but I will refrain — it would sound like pure, go-for-broke exploitation, an impression that would be entirely misleading. 

The Untamed is actually a deliberately-paced construction of mood and character, which gradually makes us so invested in the family drama that we’re almost unprepared for the more outre elements (even though we know something really strange is afoot from the very beginning). 

Veronica (Simone Bucio) is a shy young woman with a bizarre secret. Her friend, Alejandra (Ruth Ramos), is in an unhappy marriage to a homophobic brute, Angel (Jesús Meza), who is secretly having an affair with Alejandra’s brother (Eden Villavicencio). An upsetting discovery leads to Angel’s arrest for assault, but is he really guilty? 

Angel’s two adorable children ask inconvenient questions, like, “Where’s Daddy, what happened to uncle Fabien, why does Grandma say that God is punishing our father?” and so on. 

Meanwhile, Veronica leads more characters to the log cabin that featured in the oh-so-startling opening scene.

I’m annoying myself by being so vague, but I can assure you that if you can deal with the squicky weirdness of the opening scene, and the heartbreaking dissolution of a supremely dysfunctional family in the main narrative, then this film will be an unforgettable must-see. Particularly if you’re a fan of Andrzej Zulawski’s astonishing but divisive film, Possession (1981). (The late Mr. Zulawski receives an “In Memoriam” credit at the end of The Untamed.)

The Untamed screens Friday at 9:15 p.m. and Sunday at 1:30 at the Globe Cinema as part of the Calgary Underground Film Festival. For tickets click here.

John Tebbutt is the Video Vulture. He has been writing about obscure and ridiculous cinema since 1997. You can keep up with his nonsense on his websiteFacebookTwitter and through episodes of a program he’s doing with NUTV