Spanish Standout ‘Piggy’ Tackles A Different Kind Of Body Horror – Film Review

Vertigo Releasing

¡Cerdita!” The pitched, mocking voice of a teenage bully calls through the screen. Viewers of writer and director Carlota Pereda’s Piggy will struggle to rid their mind of the film’s original, Spanish-language title, thanks to the way the word echoes across the frames of this coming-of-age horror. 

The film opens on our titular ‘Piggy’, protagonist Sara (Laura Galán), being ridiculed unbeknownst to her parents by popular mean girl Maca (Claudia Salas), who motions throwing up at the sight of her through the window of her family’s butcher shop. Sara is fat. It is an undeniable fact of the narrative and one which it never shies away from. Growing up in small-town Spain, almost all of the conflict presented stems from Sara’s size. The unavoidable social horrors that come with being different in a close-knit community are perfectly illustrated by the film’s claustrophobic 4:3 aspect ratio. 

Rita Noriega’s tight, intense cinematography is one of the highlights of the otherwise largely depressing film, alongside Laura Galán’s emotive central performance, each of whom reprises their roles from Pereda’s short film of the same name. Both are arguably best illustrated in an early, harrowing scene at the local pool, where Sara finds herself isolated with her tormentors, as a POV camera shot forces us into Sara’s shoes while the bullies ‘oink’ and place a net over the drowning girl’s head. Sara’s unanswered begs of desperation as her former friend Claudia (Irene Ferreiro) stands back, neither aiding the bullies, she associates with nor interceding on the victim’s behalf, serving as the inciting incident of the film. Upon discovering the girls being kidnapped by an unnerving Richard Holmes, following their theft of her clothes and her subsequent flight from a gang of aggressive local men in only her bathing suit and glittery, childish jelly sandals, Sara also stands back and does nothing to aid them. It’s a revenge fantasy likely familiar to anyone who has experienced intense abuse or bullying, but Sara’s distress and guilt as she attempts to cover up the incident prove Piggy is far from a Tarantino-esque tale of bloody vengeance.

Vertigo Releasing

Pereda’s message is clear: bystanders to bullying, and in parallel, violence, are just as culpable as the perpetrators of the crime. Piggy employs a good amount of character work to keep us sympathising with our protagonist’s distinctly grey morality in the face of this, and the film is deliberate in its assertion that fatphobia is not merely the purview of high school bullies but an insidious, systematic problem that divides and destroys positive relationships. However, it remains a cast of overall unlikeable characters, and the comfort Sara finds in her would-be white-knight-turned-abductor, the enactor of her darkest thoughts towards her family and aggressors, is quickly dispelled. 

The final act is a relentlessly dark show of gory violence in both tone and colour, but the maiming and murder that is finally brought to the forefront is showcased with a severe lack of emotional impact in comparison to the earlier scenes of bullying. While this emphasises the film’s point, it makes for a deflated climax. Everyone sucks, and besides perhaps Sara, we simply don’t care about these people, so the violence committed against them draws little feeling beyond shock value from the audience, in a film otherwise so concerned with the response of the bystander. Sara’s Carrie-esque transition from passive victimhood to an active executor of her own will is certainly realised, but neither she nor we really receive the catharsis we seek from it.

In the end, Piggy is an admirably solid, cerebral horror film asking all the right moral questions, but as many people find when searching for meaning in abuse, it fails to deliver wholly satisfactory answers.

Piggy was released in limited cinemas in the UK on January 6th and is available to rent on Curzon Home Cinema now

by Isobel Frost

Isobel (she/her) is a freelance writer and aspiring entertainment journalist from Yorkshire. She is a steadfast enjoyer of all things visual media and is guaranteed to cry at most of it. Her favourite films include Lilo & Stitch and The Lost Boys, which, if nothing else, proves she contains multitudes. You can find her on Twitter and Substack.

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