The Untamed: Wildly Provocative and Bleak Sci-Fi Horror

A young woman comes to grips with her failing marriage and homosexual husband, and oh yeah there’s something about a tentacle sex alien too, in The Untamed (2016), a Mexican sci-fi horror film written and directed by Amat Escalante. Originally titled La region salvaje, it was released in the U.S. in 2017. The film gratuitously uses a provocative subtext to explore serious drama and sexual themes in small town Mexico.

Amat Escalante is a Spanish director known for his gritty portrayal of the Mexican experience. The Untamed paints an unvarnished portrait, and even the natural scenes are bleak and depressing. Its original title translates to “the wild region,” which I’m assuming refers both to untamed nature and female sexuality. There are several close up shots that reinforce that theme scattered throughout the film.

Alejandra (Ruth Ramos) and Ángel (Jesus Meza) are raising two children in an unhappy marriage. Alejandra’s brother, Fabian (Eden Villavicencio), is a nurse at a local hospital. Ángel and Fabian are having an affair. Things get weird when Fabian meets Veronica (Simone Bucio), who visits the hospital after being bitten by a lusty tentacle alien her parents (?) keep in their barn.

Veronica lures Fabian to the barn, where the creature brutalizes him into a coma. He is later found naked in a ditch and brought to the hospital, where Alejandra meets Veronica. Police arrest Ángel for Fabian’s injuries because a bystander saw the two men arguing in a parking lot before Fabian disappeared.

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Gold Medal Flour

Vintage advertisement for Gold Medal Flour on the wall of Colesante’s Tavern at 480 Factory Street in Watertown, New York. The Washburn-Crosby Company became General Mills in 1928. Their original Gold Medal Flour factory was located in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Pickled Pig

The Pickled Pig, at 2639 Main Street (New York State Route 86) in Lake Placid, New York, an artisan pub with a Southern flair, has only been open for a couple years, but I’m loving this sign!

Chancellorsville Battlefield

The Chancellorsville battlefield is part of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. Fought between April 30 and May 6, 1863 near the village of Chancellorsville, the battle pitted  Union Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker’s Army of the Potomac against Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War. The battle resulted in approximately 30,500 total casualties.

The Battle of Chancellorsville is considered Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s most stunning victory. In violation of basic military rules, he divided his army in the face of a superior enemy and sent Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s corps around the Union army’s flank. Jackson’s ill-fated death, accidentally shot by one of his own soldiers, was devastating to the Confederate cause.

Pictured above is a re-creation outlining the Chancellor House at the intersection of modern-day Route 610 (Orange Plank Road) and Route 3 (Orange Turnpike). Union General Joseph Hooker used the Chancellor House has a headquarters during the battle. He was slightly injured when a cannonball struck a porch pillar he was leaning against.

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Aux Sable Cemetery’s Controversial Haunt

Aux Sable is a quaint, garden-like cemetery tucked in the woods near Aux Sable Creek in Grundy County. Despite an otherwise mundane existence, it continues to be a point of contention between local youth and law enforcement, with paranormal tourists caught in the middle.

The legends associated with the cemetery are of the usual stock: strange car trouble, the ghost of a young child, and rumors of a gate to Hell. Aux Sable has yet to appear in any books on Illinois ghostlore, but it has been discussed and debated at length on numerous websites.

According to History of Aux Sable Township and Villages by D.A. Henneberry, Aux Sable Township was a hunting ground for Pottawatomie Indians before Europeans arrived. The first white settler in the area was Salmon Rutherford, a notable figure in pioneer Illinois. He arrived in 1833 and established the settlement of Dresden.

The land around Aux Sable Creek provided fertile soil for farming, a bountiful harvest of timber, and a large population of wild bees, which supplied honey for the settlers. The honey was made into an alcoholic beverage called Metheglin (otherwise known as mead).

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Super Dark Times: A Harrowing and Tense Coming-of-Age Thriller

In Super Dark Times (2017), a teen must come to grips with his increasingly psychotic friend in this harrowing and tense coming-of-age thriller. Written by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski, and directed by Kevin Phillips, this indie film’s competency highlights why Hollywood is failing. Younger, more creative filmmakers are using technology and innovation to craft solid, beautifully-rendered films that put big-budget studios to shame.

Director Kevin Phillips is mostly known for his short film cinematography, and he’s spent the past twelve years honing his craft. Nearly every scene in this film is beautiful, but it’s not another example of “style over substance.” The movie is structurally sound, competently written, and the dialogue is believable. It reminds me of films from the ’80s and early ’90s, which tried to ground fantastic or extreme situations in reality.

As Super Dark Times opens, a buck has accidentally crashed into a high school and severely injured itself. Two police officers clear the scene and put it down. This dramatic and brutal scene sets the tone for the rest of the film. Enter four acquaintances, childhood friends Zach (Owen Campbell) and Josh (Charlie Tahan), Daryl (Max Talisman), and an 8th-grader named Charlie (Sawyer Barth). Zach and Josh both have a crush on classmate Allison (Elizabeth Cappuccino), but she eventually chooses Zach.

The kids discover a bag of marijuana and a samurai sword in Josh’s brother’s bedroom and take it to a park to mess around. Josh and Daryl get into an argument and Josh accidentally stabs him in the neck, killing him. The teens hide Daryl’s body in the woods and try to forget about the crime, but Josh’s increasingly erratic behavior stokes Zach’s guilt and paranoia. The film’s sickening climax is disturbing and difficult to watch, but the entire film has you on edge from start to finish.

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A Visit to Haunted Milton Schoolhouse in Alton, Illinois

The Milton Schoolhouse in Alton, Illinois was constructed in 1904 and expanded in several stages until a gym and stage were finally added in 1937. The elementary school closed in the 1980s and became a glass factory. That too was abandoned and rumors of ghosts began to circulate about the old school, especially when it hosted a haunted attraction. Syfy Channel’s Ghost Hunters visited in 2010. Today, it is a business incubator home to a popular coffee shop. This winter, I toured the building with psychic-medium Chanda Crosby and interviewed her about her experience.

Chez Piggy Restaurant & Bar

Chez Piggy Restaurant & Bar at 68 Princess St, Kingston, ON