Slasher and revenge horrors could be said to be two sides of the same coin; in one, you are following the victims, and in the other, you are following (and often cheering on) the killer. Both genres often play with the rural setting, exploring themes of isolation and alienation, themes Carlota Pereda’s film Piggy utilizes while managing to brilliantly weave the two subgenres together for delightfully disturbing and blood-splattered results.
Based on a short film released a few years before, Piggy follows Sara, a young woman in a small Spanish village that is persistently bullied for her weight. A fateful afternoon at the pool puts her in the path of her tormentors, and them in the path of a violent unknown man. Sara’s long walk home makes her a witness to his carnage, but in the moment they form a silent pact and Sara walks away. As the consequences of that pact unfold, Sara will have to contend with battling feelings of guilt and a sense of inclusion.
Visually, the movie is stunning, oscillating between sun-scorched daytime shots in the gorgeous Spanish countryside and disorienting night scenes. Pereda and cinematographer Rita Noriega give us such a visual feast that maximizes the locale–from the picturesque village Sara calls home, to the menacing and isolated woods. The rural village is brought to life in a timeless fashion, with stunning architecture and town culture that could be now or a hundred years ago, punctured only by the use of smartphones and modern vehicles. A number of inventive shots are utilized, as well as slasher favorites such as eye framing in a rearview mirror or a Texas Chainsaw Massacre-esque dizzying mix of golden summer sunlight with a nauseating plethora of blood. In fact, the more unsettling scenes are in daylight, which is always a feat in my book.
Actress Laura Galán is heartbreakingly good in her role as Sara; relatable in all of her teen isolation, and somehow equally relatable in questionable decision-making. Sara’s bathing suit-clad walk home was one of the more distressing scenes in a film with plenty of violence, in large part due to Galán’s ability to portray a combination of abject horror as well as teen vulnerability and body awareness. The actors at large did a great job of filling out Sara’s world and putting pressure on both the guilt as well as the desire to indulge. The only character that is irksome is the pretty boy, “I’m the only one doing my job!” police officer Juan Carlos. His character served very little purpose other than extra pressure on Sara and had a minimal effect (if any) on the outcome of the story. His screen time could have been better spent on more gruesome endeavors or filling out the life of the town in more detail.
The gore is spread sparingly, but often the implications of violence to come–or violence that has already happened– are more than dark enough. The interplay between actual physical violence and the menacing force of teenage trauma is interesting to see play out in Piggy. Viewers who have experienced some of what Sara goes through (reviewer raises her hand) will relate to the claustrophobia of teenage years spent avoiding domestic dangers, and striving for any outlet or connection to another person that can alleviate the misery. As revenge factors into the story, the viewer may find themselves in an uncomfortable position cheering on the demise of characters that would be perfectly likable set in other films.
One of the startling parts of this movie is that it went into interesting, and rarely explored territory–that of attraction between the main character and the killer. Sure, horror fans have long thirsted over the lumbering hunky likes of Jason or Michael Myers, or found themselves drawn to the svelt and charismatic jokester Freddy…. but “unknown” (as the serial killer is referred to on IMDB) is none of those things. I don’t want to give too much away, but this movie left me in uncharted territory swooning over a constantly sweaty, unblinking, Larry The Cable Guy knock-off murderer.
This is due in large part because Pereda so perfectly created the most intolerable world for Sara, and frames any interaction with the killer as the only safe space to be admired as she is, so that when this bulging-eyed terror of a man appears on the screen there is some odd sense of relief–and Sara clearly feels it too! With so few films doing this properly or explicitly playing the scenario out (often only explored by accidental chemistry between victim and adversary), Piggy stands above most horror films for this alone. It was equal parts delightful and uncomfortable–talk about a thing for bad boys!
My thirsting aside, this is such an incredible horror movie that manages to be equal parts fun and unnerving. I gave it 4.5/5 stars for putting me in the uncomfortable position of realizing what a dirtbag I am for wanting the ending to go in a different and… darker direction (not that it isn’t plenty dark). I love a horror movie that ends on such a bleak or bizarre note that it burrows in your brain and lives there rent-free, like an intrusive parasite. Piggy was so close to being there (without giving anything away), but the direction it took was so good too. It wasn’t a bad ending, I guess I’m just a bad person. All around, I can’t recommend Piggy enough. It’s a true delight for revenge horror fans.
We Watched Piggy as Part of the FrightFest 2022 Lineup
Past Festival Coverage
Alejandro Cohen Arazi’s debut film The Unburied, was selected as part of the 2021 FrightFest lineup. Offering up a dive into a world of the occult built up through generations… Many look to the upper echelons of society with a peculiar sense of awe, lives where money is no longer a concern is something that has drawn people into these… We previously had the chance to check out Thomas Burke’s short film Camping Fun, a quick dive into a small cult that showed that Burke had the knack to channel… Holy Shit! (Holy Crap!/Ach du Scheisse!) is a 2022 German comedy thriller, written and directed by Lucas Rinker in his first feature-length work. As architect Frank awakens from unconsciousness, he…
Alejandro Cohen Arazi’s debut film The Unburied, was selected as part of the 2021 FrightFest lineup. Offering up a dive into a world of the occult built up through generations…
Many look to the upper echelons of society with a peculiar sense of awe, lives where money is no longer a concern is something that has drawn people into these…
We previously had the chance to check out Thomas Burke’s short film Camping Fun, a quick dive into a small cult that showed that Burke had the knack to channel…
Holy Shit! (Holy Crap!/Ach du Scheisse!) is a 2022 German comedy thriller, written and directed by Lucas Rinker in his first feature-length work. As architect Frank awakens from unconsciousness, he…
A study in contrasts, Aubry is a lover of knitting and rescuing strays, but also most likely the one cheering loudest during gory horror scenes.
Someday she’s going to get too excited and accidentally stab herself with a knitting needle.