Written and directed by Spanish filmmaker Carlota Pereda, PIGGY (OV: Cerdita) is based on her synonymous 2019 short film. The film stars Laura Gálan as a teenager who unwittingly finds herself involved in a series of grizzly murders.
Set in Extremadura, Spain, teenager Sara is bullied constantly due to her large frame, earning her the nickname ‘Piggy’ – a name not helped by her family’s local butcher shop. When a leisurely trip to the pool ends in humiliation, it is no wonder that she refuses to intervene when her bullies end up in trouble. However, the incident only triggers a flood of gossip in their small town that causes Sara to question whether to let her bullies suffer or protect their kidnapper.
With everyone unable to connect with her, Sara is desperately lonely. Her kind-hearted father (Julián Valcárcel) doesn’t understand her and her passive-aggressive mother (Carmen Machi) treats her like a child. Therefore, Sara’s bullying goes unnoticed and unanswered, especially as her former friend Claudia (Irene Ferriero) seemingly sides with Sara’s malicious bullies, leaving our protagonist in need of someone – anyone – to have her back. In a karmic twist of fate, Sara sees her bullies bundled and bloodied in a white van but by choosing to save her own skin (both figuratively and literally, due to a nasty case of sunburn), she stops being a victim and becomes an accomplice. As the film goes on, her struggle to justify her lack of action brilliantly becomes a relatable moral conflict to the extent that she is willing to protect the mostly silent killer (Richard Holmes).
In terms of tone and pace, PIGGY smartly balances itself between horror and thriller, with Sara’s resolve slowly crumbling due to anger and fear. She doesn’t want to be reminded of what happened yet the events throw her into the line of constant questioning from not only the police, gossiping locals and concerned parents, but also her mother. With Sara’s anger seemingly triggering a series of gruesome murders around the town, it causes her to wonder if this is due to an avenging angel or a psycho guided by karma, culminating in a tense confrontation where she wishes all those around her were dead. As her harsh words act as a catalyst for the film’s suspenseful final act, Sara learns that she needs to be careful about what she wishes for.
While PIGGY has a similar twang of Carrie, the horror behind the film is diluted in favour of an underdeveloped coming-of-age narrative. In addition to certain supporting characters being left in the dark, there is a lack of explanation behind the mysterious stranger and Sara’s feelings towards him are left undisclosed. Therefore, the film mostly focuses on Sara’s psychological journey that enables the audience to feel the strength of her anger and her inner emotional conflict. The harsh dialogue not only feeds but echoes Sara’s frustration with everyone around her amid Pereda’s intimate direction and Rita Noriega’s smart camerawork while Gálan delivers a heartfelt yet bold performance as Sara.
Given PIGGY being a revamped version of her own short film, Pereda could have included more to accommodate a full-length feature. But thanks to Gálan’s strong performance, PIGGY is a bloody, gritty yet engrossing tale with a compelling protagonist at its heart.
Director: Carlota Pereda
Stars: Laura Gálan, Richard Holmes, Pilar Castro, Carmen Machi, José Pastor
Runtime: 90 minutes