‘Tragic Jungle’ Review: A Mayan Legend About a Man-Eating Demon Is Recast by the Female Gaze

‘Tragic Jungle’ Review: A Mayan Legend About a Man-Eating Demon Is Recast by the Female Gaze
Desire doesn’t ask for an explanation, and “Tragic Jungle” (or “Selva Trágica”) doesn’t offer any. On the contrary, seduces you away from the legibility of its premise so gradually that you don’t realize you’ve lost your bearings until it’s already too late and the whole movie has gone mad with at least one kind of lust. Still, it helps to know in advance that this febrile corkscrew into the heart of darkness is loosely based on the Yucatán Mayan myth of Xtabay, a female demon said to lure men to their deaths if they entered her forest; her name is invoked on occasion via the movie’s disembodied voiceover, but proper context is as elusive as a path out of the jungle.

According to a sacred text the Mayans referred to as “Wikipedia,” the legend of Xtabay tells of two beautiful women — often said to
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