Amets Otxoa, Camille Aguilar, Carlota Pereda, Carmen Machi, Claudia Salas, Fantastic Fest, film festivals, Irene Ferreiro, Jose Pastor, Julian Valcarcel, Laura Galan, movies, Piggy, Pilar Castro, reviews, RIchard Holmes, Spain, Sundance, Sundance Film Festival
October 16, 2022
by Carla Hay
Directed by Carlota Pereda
Spanish with subtitles
Culture Representation: Taking place in Villanueva de la Vera, Spain, the horror film “Piggy” features an all-Spanish cast of characters (white and Latin) representing the working-class and middle-class.
Culture Clash: A 16-year-old girl, who is bullied by other young people for being overweight, finds an unlikely ally in a mysterious serial killer.
Culture Audience: “Piggy” will appeal mainly to people who are interested in watching oddball horror movies about oddball characters.
Some of the most disturbing scenes in the horror film “Piggy” aren’t where people are being killed in bloody murders but are the scenes where the main character is emotionally damaged by the cruel bullying inflicted on her. For some viewers of “Piggy,” these harassment scenes might be more uncomfortable to watch than the blood and gore, because the psychological and physical abuse of bullying is more likely to happen to people in real life. The movie’s ending could have been better, but “Piggy” is still an intriguing and well-acted horror movie that provocatively explores issues of bullying, self-esteem and revenge.
Written and directed by Carlota Pereda, “Piggy” takes place in the small seaside town of Villanueva de la Vera, Spain. It’s the type of place that seems stuck in a bygone era and is an occasional vacation destination for tourists who like to go to places that are off the beaten path. “Offbeat” is one way to describe this movie too, which has some twists and turns that toy with viewer expectations of how the movie is going to end. “Piggy” had its world premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival and won the prize for Best Horror Picture at 2022 Fantastic Fest.
“Piggy” is based on Pereda’s 2018 short film “Cerdita,” which means “little pig” or “piggy” in Spanish, and has the same star/protagonist for both movies: 16-year-old Sara (played by Laura Galán), who is the target of the bullying throughout the entire story. (Galán was actually in her 30s when she played this character in “Piggy” and “Cerdita.”)
in “Piggy,” Sara works part-time with her parents in their family-owned butcher shop. Her mother Asun (played by Carmen Machi) often insults and berates Sara for not looking more “presentable” for potential suitors, while Sara’s father Tomás (played by Julián Valcárcel) is a mostly passive parent who doesn’t seem very interested in making Sara’s life better. Sara lives with her parents and her younger, bratty brother (played by Amets Otxoa), who’s about 9 or 10 years old and who doesn’t have a name in the movie. Sara’s brother also teases her about her weight.
Four local teenagers, who are all in the same clique, have singled out Sara for merciless bullying. The group leader is Maca (played by Claudia Salas), who is the meanest of the group’s “mean girls.” Maca’s female sidekicks are Roci (played by Camille Aguilar) and Claudia (played by Irene Ferreiro), while the fourth person involved in the bullying is Claudia’s boyfriend Pedro (played by José Pastor), who is a good-looking troublemaker.
The four teens openly call Sara a “pig” or “piggy” to her face, and they sometimes make pig noises when she’s nearby. Claudia is the least cruel of the “mean girls,” but she goes along with a lot of the bullying and does nothing to stop it, which makes her just as guilty. There are some hints that Sara might have a crush on Pedro, so his taunting of Sara hurts her even more emotionally.
Maca, Roci and Claudia are in the butcher shop one day, while Sara and her parents are behind the counter. Maca leaves, and Roci and Claudia linger behind while Roci secretly takes a photo of Sara and her parents behind the counter. Sara later finds out that the photo was posted on social media with this caption: “Three Little Pigs. Fucking Fatso.” The photo has gotten numerous “likes” on social media.
Sara is understandably humiliated, sad and angry about this cyberbullying. And things gets worse for her. Sara goes to a local public swimming pool by herself, but she can’t even spend some time enjoying the pool before the bullies go after her. Maca, Roci and Claudia are also at this swimming pool, and they use a cleaning net to dunk Sara in the water.
These bullies don’t want to drown her, but this physical violence could still have harmful consequences. They don’t know if Sara has a medical condition that could cause a heart attack or some negative health reactions to this stressful situation. To add to Sara’s embarrassment, the three mean girls steal Sara’s non-swimsuit clothes before they leave, so Sara has to leave the pool wearing nothing but a bikini.
Before this attack on Sara, she saw a mysterious and unkempt-looking stranger in his 30s (played by Richard Holmes), who startled her with his presence at this public swimming pool. He says nothing to her, so Sara assumes he’s just a creepy person in a random encounter. Little does she know that she will see this man again many times over the course of the next few days.
Sara, who has to self-consciously leave the swimming pool with her swimsuit and no other clothes, is walking down a deserted road near a wooded area when three teenage boys follow her in a car, get out and chase her down, rough her up a little bit, and call her “Fatty,” “Fatso” and “Miss Bacon.” How much worse can Sara’s day get?
After the teenage harassers drive away, a white van drives by Sara. And she sees that Roci and Claudia have been kidnapped in the back of the van. Claudia sees Sara and makes frantic gestures for Sara to help her. A terrified Sara is seen by the van’s driver, who stops the vehicle and gets out. And lo and behold, the driver is the same man whom she saw at the swimming pool.
Sara is so frightened that she urinates on herself. What Sara didn’t see (but viewers can see) is that before driving off with Claudia and Roci, this same stranger had killed Maca and hid Maca’s body in the woods. When the driver gets out of the van, he and Sara make eye contact with each other.
In that moment, Sara could do any number of things. What she chooses is to wave her hand in approval when she realizes that this man probably saw her being bullied at the swimming pool. He silently drives away with the kidnapped Claudia and Roci in the back of the van. Now that this kidnapper/murderer knows that Sara is not going to report what she saw, the rest of the movie is about what happens in the cover-up of these crimes and whether or not Sara gets caught for helping this criminal.
Over time, it becomes obvious that this unidentified criminal has been stalking Sara, who develops a bizarre little crush on him, because he seems to be the first man who pays attention to her. Several questions arise throughout the movie, with the biggest ones being: “Who is this criminal?” and “Why has he decided to come into Sara’s life in the way that he does?” Don’t expect “Piggy” to give all the answers by the end of the movie.
“Piggy” is less concerned about solving the mystery of this unnamed stranger and more concerned about how Sara changes psychologically during the course of the story. The movie challenges viewers to ponder if bullying victim Sara deserves less sympathy once it becomes obvious that she aided and abetted in the kidnapping of at least two of her tormenters. When police investigators interview Sara about the missing teens, she lies and says she doesn’t know anything about their disappearances.
“Piggy” has plenty of suspense, but the movie doesn’t quite convince viewers that more people in this small town wouldn’t immediately notice and suspect this disheveled and creepy-looking stranger who’s been lurking around, doesn’t talk, and doesn’t seem to know anyone in this town. He never really gets on the police’s radar, which is the most unrealistic part of the movie. The middle section of the movie tends to drag with repetition about Sara lying to police, and Claudia’s mother Elena (played by Pilar Castro) immediately being suspicious that Sara is not telling all that Sara knows. When Elena confronts Sara and Sara’s mother Asun with these suspicions, it leads to one of the best scenes in the movie.
Asun vigorously defends Sara and chastises Elena for Claudia being a bully to Sara. Elena vehemently denies that Claudia has ever been a bully to anyone. This scene cleverly shows how both mothers don’t really know their daughters. And even though Sara is defended by Asun, Sara is still very angry at her mother for not seeming to care about Sara being bullied until after Sara was a “person of interest” in this missing persons investigation.
The last 15 minutes of “Piggy” turn into a literally bloody mess that will frustrate some viewers who want more definitive answers to the questions raised in the movie. However, thanks to Galán’s memorable performance (where she conveys a lot of emotions without saying much in the movie), “Piggy” has a way of getting viewers’ attention about this unfortunate fact of life: People who are bullied can sometimes turn out to be worse than their bullies if the motive is revenge.
Magnet Releasing released “Piggy” in select U.S. cinemas on October 7, 2022. The movie expanded to more U.S. theaters and was released on digital and VOD on October 14, 2022.