This October has been jam-packed with horror offerings for genre fans. Following on the heels of Smile, Netflix cued up the latest Stephen King adaptation, Mr. Harrigan’s Phone, as well as two creepy mini-series, The Midnight Club and The Watcher. Over at Disney Plus, the Marvel Cinematic Universe detoured into horror with the one-off special, Werewolf By Night. We’ve also gotten a Hellraiser reboot, Deadstream, Terrifier 2, and the conclusion to the H40 trilogy, Halloween Ends. That’s a busy month – and it’s not over yet. Amidst this horror onslaught, Spanish-French indie thriller Piggy – a critical favourite at film festivals – has made its way to VOD platforms.
Sara, an overweight girl, has always struggled to fit in. So it’s no surprise when an afternoon swim at the local pool turns into an afternoon of torment. On her walk home, however, Sara watches in horror as a mysterious man attacks and abducts her tormenters. When the police question her later, Sara hesitates and, ultimately says nothing. Torn between wanting revenge and doing the right thing, Sara’s internal conflict slowly boils over into real world tragedy.
Piggy Feels Both Familiar and Refreshing as a Mix of Slasher, Revenge, and Coming-Of-Age Tale
Part slasher movie, part social outcast revenge thriller, and part coming-of-age, Piggy feels both familiar and refreshing. Like any social outcast thriller, writer and director Carlota Pereda uses the first act to introduce us to the socially awkward Sara. And Pereda shows us the exclusionary, brutal treatment Sara endures every day. Younger audiences may be shocked by the cruelty on screen, but Piggy plays out very much like the social thrillers of the 70s and 80s. Pereda’s sun-soaked backdrop visually distinguishes her film. Moreover, there’s a nicely quirky relationship between Sara and her family that maybe grounds this thriller more than older examples. This more grounded atmosphere also makes Sara’s pain and loneliness hit a little harder.
Though it’s initially effective, Piggy admittedly drags a bit in its second act. Still Pereda ratchets things up to nearly unbearable heights in a tense, gore-soaked finale.
There’s little of the movie’s promised gore or overt horror in the first act. Much of Piggy’s discomfort emerges from the bullies’ treatment of Sara. When our silent, hulking killer emerges from the public pool, the mystery around him – and a disturbing image beneath the water – feel subtly unnerving. After establishing the thriller’s moral dilemma, Pereda slows things down to explore Sara’s turmoil as she’s tugged by guilt, her mother, and the townspeople. Though it’s initially effective, Piggy admittedly drags a bit in its second act. Still Pereda ratchets things up to nearly unbearable heights in a tense, gore-soaked finale. Perhaps some audiences may find the ‘revenge’ aspect of Piggy somewhat underwhelming. Yet it’s also a more subversive take that’s more in keeping with Pereda’s story.
Piggy Finds Laura Galan Putting a Human Face On Bullying
In addition to Pereda’s apt grasp of the genres, Laura Galan’s performance as the lonely ‘Sara’ is a remarkably good one. On one hand, Piggy boasts a premise that at once distinguishes it from other straightforward revenge thrillers. But it also threatens to pull the thriller into increasingly unbelievable territory. It’s Galan’s embodiment of probably how every bullied teen feels that makes her reluctance to tell the police what she’s seen more plausible. That is, Galan drives home both the sense of desperation to fit in alongside a buried rage at her mistreatment. All of these elements are mixed in with a natural adolescent awkwardness resulted in a layered performance.
…Laura Galan’s performance as the lonely ‘Sara’ is a remarkably good one.
Expectations of revenge thrillers dictate that the oppressors get a brutal comeuppance. How Piggy unfolds may divide some audiences. Ultimately, it’s Pereda’s decision to subvert these expectations that elevate Piggy above more generic revenge thrillers. And it’s in this respect, where the movie leans into something of a ‘coming-of-tale’ wherein Sara breaks free of her fears and doubts, and inevitably fights for herself. If it’s not quite what audiences expect, it proves to be cathartic and emotionally satisfying. This is a more thematically-rich revenge thriller better-suited for this era.
Piggy Overcomes a Slow Middle Act to Mostly Satisfy
After an emotionally challenging first third, Piggy loses some its momentum before ending on an a poignant note. Even if its middle act loses a bit of tension, Laura Galán’s performance ensures you’re always invested in where the movie is going. If there’s any other shortcoming, Pereda doesn’t quite push its revenge premise as far as some viewers might hope. Whether that’s a positive or negative largely depends on expectations. Some may find Piggy’s detour away from the excesses of 70s and 80s revenge movies to be refreshingly subversive. Regardless this Spanish horror-thriller remains compelling from start to finish.