It’s the height of summer in a scenic Spanish village, and Sara (Laura Galán) should be out soaking up the sun and swooning over crushes like other teens her age. Instead, she spends her days hidden away in the family butcher shop, trying to keep raw meat from oozing on her textbooks.
We soon find out why Sara prefers the company of dead meat. The local “cool kids” viciously bully her every chance they get. They make fun of Sara’s weight by calling her pig and squealing.
Things get further out of hand when the bullies find Sara alone in a swimming pool. They attack Sara with a pool net, almost drowning her, and then steal her clothes. Gasping for air, and face streaming with tears, she makes the long trek home wearing only her swimsuit.
An odd stranger (Richard Holmes) witnesses the incident and takes matters into his own hands. He captures the abusers and locks them in the back of his creepy van. On her way home, Sara crosses paths with the stranger and notices one of her bullies in the van begging for help. But Sara does nothing as the psycho drives away scot-free.
As the townsfolk investigate the stranger’s crime spree, Sara keeps silent. She’s torn between sharing what she knows and exploring the mutual connection she has with the mystery man.
Piggy’s writer-director Carlota Pereda’s strong feature debut offers viewers lots to unpack. The 93-minute film works both as a taut horror thriller and a coming-of-age story about a young woman stifled by small-town life.
You can also spend hours debating the murky morality driving the movie’s plot. There’s so much worth exploring here that I may need to screen this movie a second time, after Sundance, to properly assess it.
No matter which aspect of the film speaks to you, know that Piggy wears its midnight movie label like a badge of honour. If you can’t take anxiety-inducing thrillers and depraved slasher flicks, you’ll want to avoid this one. Piggy features vile characters, disgusting visuals, and gratuitous acts of violence. If that description sounds like your jam, then you’re in for a bloody good time.
Cinematographer Rita Noriega doesn’t waste a single minute establishing Piggy’s disturbing tone. The film kicks off with a series of gnarly shots tailored to make viewers squirm. Noriega also beautifully captures the visual splendour of life in a quaint Extremadura village. The breezy summer vibe early on makes it even more shocking as the plot takes a dark turn and takes on a Texas Chainsaw Massacre vibe.
Even though most people won’t experience bullying as extreme as Sara’s, this film is all too relatable. The smartphone era created a generation of bullies who live to inflict digital terrorism. Who doesn’t have a nemesis or three tormenting their social media feeds? Our constant exposure to internet trolls eats away at our well-being in ways that affect us online and in the real world.
I’ve seen contentious Facebook and Twitter posts drive easy-going people to wish terrible things on anti-vaxxers and COVID deniers. I’m talking about folks who wouldn’t dream of saying something mean-spirited just a year ago. But, day by day, exposure to social toxicity ate away their compassion, fueling resentment and then hostility. Pereda makes this point in Piggy through Sara’s topsy-turvy moral compass.
Sara wouldn’t have developed her dark impulses if she felt loved and respected. She’s been driven so far beyond her breaking point that she takes joy from seeing the world burn down around her. Although Piggy is an extreme example of what can happen if you push people too far, it’s still an example of art imitating life.
Piggy is a dark and twisted revenge fantasy with a killer premise. Pereda delivers a provocative horror-thriller packed with devilish pleasures.
Piggy premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Head here for more from this year’s festival.