From time to time, I remember hearing my mother say to her sister, to one of her friends, or to a patron at work (she was a hair stylist), “kids can be cruel.” This was no revelation to me since I had experienced it first hand; I skipped kindergarten and went straight into first grade in a private school with rigorous academics. I knew my colors, could count to 13 and say my ABCs…and that was about it.
So yeah. I got made fun of. But not like Sara (Laura Galan) in Carlota Pereda’s Spanish horror film Piggy, thank God.
You’ve probably guessed from the film’s unflattering title (not to mention the featured image) that Sara is overweight. If so, you’re wrong.
She’s obese. And she doesn’t try to hid it. To do so would be futile.
Sara is also, as my mother would say, “pretty in the face.” She has a thick mane of wavy brown-black hair and expressive eyes of the same color. Her skin is as smooth as her expression is forlorn. There are many reasons for her despair, of which obesity is only a symptom.
Numero uno: Su madre (Carmen Machi). She’s…how shall I say it? A bitch.
There’s absolutely nothing Sara can do to please her. What’s more, she goes around announcing–quite loudly–her daughter’s sizeable, but typical teenage foibles. For example, when Sara unexpectantly gets her period her mother makes a big deal out of it, turning down a gentleman who has offered them a ride home because her daughter might mess up the white seats of his car.
Seriously? Who does that?
Wait. It gets worse.
The gentleman in the car? His son is setting next to him. And he’s a teenager too, about Sara’s age.
See what I mean?
Even so, as crazy as it might sound, Sara’s mother loves her. She does. El madre does her best to protect her daughter, although that refuge usually collapses on Sara–and everybody else in the vicinity–instead. Nonetheless, Sara needs all the protection she can get.
Case in point: Maca (Claudia Salas).
Maca is a sadist rich-girl bitch who sets her sites on Sara–hence the nickname Piggy. What’s more, Sara’s used-to-be-best-friend, Claudia (Irene Ferreiro) pals around with Maca and her cohorts now.
One day Sara decides to go to the community’s pool built around a natural spring. She shoots for an off hour when she hopes nobody will be there. And seemingly she’s in luck because when she gets there nobody’s around. Not even the lifeguard.
She dives in. When she’s pops back up she comes face to face with a hulking man whose stomach is as robust as her own.
She’s shocked. And, as usual, clumsily embarrassed.
She dives again, deeper this time, and we see that she’s quite the underwater swimmer. We watch as she obliviously, gracefully streamlines by the submerged body of the lifeguard whose hands are lashed behind his back. When she resurfaces the hulking man has disappeared, but now she is face to face with something far more insidious.
The teenage harpy plumets Sara with the pool net and manages to trap her head under the water with it, almost drowning her. All this while her cohorts gleefully laugh, as Claudia looks on a little uncomfortably.
Sara manages to escape her tormentors, but she does so without her clothes or benefit of a towel. She is forced to make a harrowing trek through the woods and down a rural road, trying desperately to avoid prying, disapproving eyes.
It’s during this journey that she runs into Maca and Claudia again, only this time the tables have turned and they are the one’ being tormented–and abducted–by the hulking man at the pool (Richard Holmes). Maca and Claudia scream for help. Sara sees the hulking man and he see’s her.
In one bloody hand he wields a huge serrated hunting knife. In the other he has a towel.
Like Tobe Hooper’s iconic Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and, to some lesser extent, Greg McLean’s Wolf Creek (2005) director Carlota Pereda infuses her film with an eerie, washed-out beauty. But while the former films have sudden busts of splendorous cinematography, Pereda imbibes hers with the disconcertingly sunny paradox of Galan’s gift of physical comedy, all of which she does with a hardcore, realistic despondency.
It’s a brilliant performance in an equally brilliant film. And though it never really scares us, it horrifies us all the better.
Happy Halloween everybody.