In Piggy, an overweight, lonely teenager finds a surprising and terrifying alliance of sorts with a sadistic killer. Read our review.
Piggy is based on writer-director Carlota Pereda’s own short film of the same name. The short runs for less than 15 minutes, but it was deeply unsettling and effective. For its feature film companion, the short film provides the film’s beginning and more or less successfully expands on the drama and conflict of it.
Sara (Laura Galán) is an overweight teenager living in a rural Spanish village. Her peers mock her for her weight as well as her family’s butcher shop where she spends most of her time. Sara waits for the local pool to quiet down so she can go for a swim, but her tormentors find her and nearly drown her with their jokes.
A stranger witnesses this and lends a helping hand. Sara’s bullies are kidnapped, leaving Sara confused, scared, but also secretly grateful. Her unique connection to the killer could provide the only way of saving her peers, but Sara must choose between revenge and salvation.
Piggy has such a meaty plot going for it. Bullying and empowering victims isn’t entirely new in horror, but Pereda’s film is filled with exquisite moral ambiguity. We’re often used to cheering for the bad guys, but Pereda masterfully forces us to question what kind of a person would wish for a teenager to suffer and end up dead in a ditch somewhere?
It’s all done through Sara’s point of view. The entire plot is experienced through her eyes and actress Laura Galán does a tremendous job at selling Sara’s insecurities but also her eventual satisfaction of perhaps finally being free of daily torment. She’s the anchor of the film, keeping everything tightly focused on her.
The rest of the cast are more fleeting presences. Carmen Machi has the biggest role as Sara’s mother, who is just as mean to her daughter as everyone else. She’s impressive and creates a believable character of a mother, who is stern and to Sara, who is already struggling with self-image, it comes across as cruelty.
Richard Holmes is appropriately menacing as the stranger, but the character is never really explored. It feels like there was room to draw more parallels between him and Sara, to explain his fascination and companionship with her. The narrative also suggests there is a sexual infatuation there, but it mostly comes across as awkward because it’s so half-cooked.
The film, as expected, had to expand from its humble premises. One of the bullies is made much more empathetic, so you’ll wish they survive. The plot is also close to running out of steam towards the end when it just has nowhere to go. The setting of a small town is narratively rich with gossiping neighbours and tense dynamics, but it also limits the scope of the film.
Piggy is a successful feature adaptation of a superior short film. It doesn’t quite manage to retain the short’s vicious edge, but it’s still a fascinating look into a hurt teenager’s morals and guilt. Galán’s naturalistic, fierce performance fuels this thriller.
Piggy is in cinemas 6 January, 2023.