Synopsis: When her bullies are kidnapped by a stranger who develops a protective fixation on her, Sara faces a dilemma: help the police find them or seek vengeance on her tormentors.
Stars: Laura Galán, Richard Holmes, Carmen Machi, Irene Ferreiro, Camille Aguilar, Claudia Salas, Pilar Castro
Director: Carlota Pereda
Running Length: 96 minutes
TMMM Score: (8/10)
Review: With a title like Piggy and a poster as in-your-face as the one for Carlota Pereda’s feature-length version of her award-winning short, audiences shouldn’t be surprised by what they’ll encounter in the wild ride this Spanish film provides. I was both anticipating and a little nervous about diving into this intense thriller, a movie I’d seen making its way through the festival circuit since the beginning of the year. As I grow older, I’m less fond of films that start from a place of cruelty as a way to justify the disposal of otherwise helpless victims, but at the same time, a tricky bit of revenge pulp can be just what the doctor ordered.
That fine razor’s edge is constantly being rocked in Pereda’s film, and it rarely falls victim to blunt edges that haven’t been appropriately sharpened. Much of that has to do with simple storytelling devices that come with expanding a short film to feature length. History has shown that sometimes there’s not enough in an original concept to take up so much extra space and frequently, what worked well in a compact running time falls apart the more time you are allowed to spend with the characters. It almost gets to Piggy as well, asking the viewer to sympathize with its central character at the outset as she’s targeted by bullies and then sticking with her as she makes a series of questionable choices. What keeps you invested is a brilliant, fearless lead performance that gives the film its heart and guts.
Sara (Laura Galán) is a lonely girl that keeps to herself, enduring constant teasing from the girls in her peer group and disapproving glances from her mother (Carmen Machi). Their family-owned butcher shop supplies many households in the town, but the customers’ children regularly make fun of the overweight family, with Sara their primary target. Nicknamed Piggy, she has taken to the town swimming location after everyone has gone to avoid being seen in a swimsuit. Already encountering the nastiest of the girls who delight in humiliating her, she wants a cool down in the water.
This particular afternoon Sara is just about to step in when a man unfamiliar to her pops up halfway out in the water. Of course, this is when the gaggle of unkind girls walks by and wages a cruel prank on their favorite target. However, they’ve picked the wrong audience member to perform in front of. Neither they nor Sara knows why the man has come to town, why he was in the water, or what he’s capable of. Making off with her clothes and forcing her to walk home in her bathing suit, the girls think they have the upper hand…but they’re crossing paths with a killer that doesn’t appreciate their wicked ways.
As Sara walks home and is caught without her clothes by local boys, there is even more humiliation in store for the poor girl. Yet she gets an eyeful when she takes a shortcut off the main road and sees the man from the lake loading one of her bullies into the back of his car, and he sees her. An understanding develops between the psychopath and Sara, explored/exploited for the remainder of the film. Sara has the opportunity to speak up and possibly help the authorities find the missing girls but stops short of saying anything. With the killer staying active nearby, a fixation develops. The excitement (and fear) of being wanted grows in Sara but with dangerous consequences for all around her.
Were it not for the grindhouse horror of the final bloody act of Piggy, Pereda would have a corker of a psychological thriller on her hands. How the girl with no friends reacts to a man that literally cuts away her pain is an interesting angle to dissect, and it hums along nicely thanks to Galán’s hypnotic performance as the titular star. I also enjoyed Machi as her fed-up mother; it’s another role that’s hard to like but admirable for the character work done by the actress. With all of the bloody business and raw meat, Piggy might make you turn vegetarian, but it’s a tart meal for those with a strong stomach for revenge.