Piggy (Melbourne International Film Festival) – Film Review

Piggy is a drama/horror written and directed by Carlota Pereda based upon her previous short film. Sara (Laura Galán), an obese teenager living in a small Spanish village is the target of much derision from other more popular teenagers. While they spend their summer socialising and having fun, she remains behind the counter of her family’s butcher shop. Even in hiding, she cannot escape the taunts and online bullying.

One hot day when she believes it’s safe to do so, Sara travels to the local pool to cool off only to be accosted, tortured, and humiliated by other girls. On her walk of shame back home, she happens to witness the kidnapping of one of these girls by an anonymous stranger (Richard Holmes). In showing Sara an act of kindness, a silent bond forms between the two. As other teens disappear and bodies start piling up, all eyes in the small village begin to focus on Sara and she must decide what to do as her tormentors may very well now be at her mercy.

I love revenge movie of all types, horror, action, thriller etc. There are movies like ‘Death Wish’ which glorified vigilantism much to the chagrin of original author Brian Garfield, and then there are movies like ‘Death Sentence’ which did the complete opposite.

I was initially interested in the premise of Piggy and curious on how it would blend the topics of modern bullying within a small town. What also drew me in was wondering how the obvious horror element (as promised by its poster of Sara drenched in gore) would play into it. I guess in some ways, I would say the film subverts your expectations as it focuses much more on Sara‘s moral struggles with the guilt of her bond with this unknown kidnapper than it does any traditional horror or gore aspect.

Laura Galan gives a great lead performance in her role as Sara. The scenes her character faces experiencing horrific abuse can be extremely hard to watch. We immediately empathise with Sara and can even somewhat understand her decision to stay quiet when her tormentors start disappearing one by one.

While the twist of not having this film be an all-out splatter revenge fantasy film was not entirely unwelcome, things still felt like they dragged for the majority of the movie. It was odd as the unspoken agreement occurs so early in the film it may have felt rushed at first, but instead the plot dragged as it built towards an unsatisfactory and poorly thought-out conclusion. There is decent characterisation of Sara’s domineering mother Asun (Carmen Machi), however there is very little of the victims and by the end, its too late to care about them.

Like some other recent movies; True Things, The Nightingale, and The Lighthouse, this film is presented in a 4:3 ‘square’ aspect ratio. Unlike many of those films, I failed to see the purpose here. Usually when modern films use this style, there is a thematic or stylistic reasoning which serves to enhance the audience’s experience. In Piggy, it largely served to frustrate me as focal points were off screen or out of frame and coupled with a lack of establishing shots, I often felt had to deduce what the characters were looking at rather than just seeing it for myself.

I did feel myself transported to this small village and thanks to a brave performance by Galán Piggy, the film sucks you in early but unfortunately with nowhere really to go. As a horror film, Piggy is lacking where its gore is only for temporary shock value and the film feels like it only dips its toes into the heavy subject of bullying as a means to an end. The short film that Piggy is based on was only 14 minutes and unfortunately despite the potential, there just isn’t enough on display here to justify the expansion to feature film territory.

Piggy is streaming online until the 28th of August subject to availability as part of the 2022 Melbourne International Film Festival.
For more information and ticketing, visit: https://play.miff.com.au/film/piggy

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