Spanish writer-director Carlota Pereda’s feature debut, ‘Piggy (Cerdita),’ is a genre-mash of startling intensity, incorporating aspects of coming-of-age, slasher, and revenge thriller. Based on Pereda’s 2018 award-winning short of the same name, ‘Piggy’ is a feature-length exploration into the life of Sara (Laura Galán), an overweight teenager who lives a pretty sheltered life with her parents. Bullied to no end, and in unbearably cruel fashion by three girls, one of whom happens to be her childhood friend, Sara is constantly subjected to relentless fat-shaming and insults. The cruelty is also extended to her family, who are openly mocked on social media for the shape of their bodies, unbeknownst to them, ofcourse.
Set during a swelteringly hot summer in a small town in southwestern Spain, ‘Piggy,’ despite featuring wide-angle shots of the locality, almost always feel claustrophobic, as Sara definitely feels that way until the final moments of the film. The constant eyes on her, the scathing comments, her sometimes-overbearing family, are factors that contribute to Sara’s lonely frustration, which is pretty understandable, especially for a teenager. The film opens in a similar fashion to the short, wherein Sara makes a trip to the local pool for a swim, only to find a strange man there, in front of whom, her bullies almost drown her. As if this was not infuriating enough, the girls run away with Sara’s clothes and belongings, forcing her to walk back home near-naked and intensely humiliated.
However, on her way back, Sarah witnesses the strange man from the pool (Richard Holmes) in a pick-up van, with the three girls being abducted by him, banging on the back of the van window for Sara’s help. Beyond traumatized by her recent ordeal, Sara cannot help but look on at the scene with fear, frozen and rooted to the spot, as a moment of understanding passes between her and the kidnapper, who tosses her a towel. The man, of course, is a contract killer of some sort, and the news of some of his earlier victims spread through the town pretty quick, with the disappearance of the girls looming over Sara’s conscience every waking moment.
‘Piggy’ is complex and layered, with some moments that do not work out in its favor, but the elements that do elevate the protagonist’s journey to heights never reached before. The final moments are clearly inspired heavily by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and are delightfully uncompromising in terms of suspense and gore. ‘Piggy’ is a film about bullying, fake friendships, body image, the need to be accepted as who we are (no matter by whom), and the extremely nuanced shades of gray that can exist within an individual, without necessarily putting them inside a moral box.
Foremost of all, ‘Piggy’ is a revenge horror, wherein Sara is given the means to earn her rightful retribution-but does she take her chance? There is freedom in some choices, while others are rooted in inaction, but no matter what Sara does, it is absolutely riveting to watch, as Galán is unearthly in terms of belting out a realistic, grounded performance. While some parts of the film are rather difficult to watch, that is only a testimony to how visceral ‘Piggy’ is in terms of its core message and central themes.
‘Piggy’ is a Spanish revenge drama directed by Carlota Pereda and had its midnight premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, in 2022.