‘Piggy’ is a Brilliant Pastiche of Horror Conventions & Coming-of-Age Terror

Carlota Pereda’s Piggy hits theaters later this month, October 14th from Magnet Releasing.

There’s something magical about Piggy. Carlota Pereda expands on her short film of the same name, alternating poignant coming-of-age moments between paralyzing horror. Set in the small village of Villanueva de la Vera, Sara is a teenage girl who works at her parent’s butcher shop and faces regular fat shaming from her schoolmates. She becomes boxed in and held down through abusive methods used by her bullies — which include her family members.

Pereda shoots Sara’s struggles through tight framing and a restrictive academy aspect ratio to bring the viewer to the same baseline level of anxiety and discomfort that she undergoes on a daily basis. When she goes to the village’s swimming pool after everyone’s left she seeks relaxation. With no one there to harass her, Sara hopes to finally breathe and compose herself after a hard day, and cool off. But someone else is already at the pool when she arrives, as are the other girls that routinely pick on her.

They humiliate her in front of this stranger, including him in their ridicule as an imaginary boyfriend to Piggy, the titular moniker used to dehumanize Sara. But the film provides more moving parts alongside its chronicle of Sara’s coming of age. A series of killings pop up in Villanueva de la Vera in the exact areas that Sara has last found herself. After her transgressors turn up missing she begins to realize that she may have something to do with it.

The magic about Piggy is how it melds adolescent trauma with abject horror. It creates a symbiosis between Sara & her audience as it draws inspiration from both classic and recent horror films. We’re constantly in close proximity to Sara at all times; when everything is happening so close to her it keeps us close too and never gives us a break either. We’re riding through the middle of two converging worlds of chaos right along with her. When you’re at the center of all that confusion it can feel draining, but looking back at events past, reflecting on them before Piggy’s final moments, we realize that she couldn’t have done anything differently at all. Her parents are in positions of support to her yet opt to not inquire or intervene. Whether through indifference or neglect they fail to make a true connection with Sara, triggering a rift between them that makes her feel guilty about — and not for good reasons.

But we have made that connection with her, and so has the mysterious stranger that has popped up in the village, and since he’s the only one she can interact with Sara is faced with a dilemma. What happens in the wake of her realizing she can either wield vengeance against those who wronged her is ultimately up to her, and while not all of us would make the choices she does by the end we have no choice but to respect them in the aftermath. The decision she makes puts her in the smartest possible place, allowing her room to grow out of the stifling box of her tiny village and further out of the negative influence of her family and others.

Laura Galán is mesmerizing as Sara, and her bullies are so convincing in their unfounded hatred of her that you can’t help but feel similarly indifferent as Sara does when they’re targeted by the drifter. Carmen Machi and Julián Valcárcel as her parents stir turmoil with ease, making it easy to believe why Sara cannot confide in them for any problem big or small. And Richard Holmes’ almost wordless performance is the other half of Piggy’s heart, beating in tandem with Sara’s during an awakening that will have your heart in your throat.

The entirety of Piggy is a brilliant mix of horror conventions denoting revenge and one adolescent girl’s awakening. Echoes of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’s brutality and Trouble Every Day’s desire can be felt through the film, equally complementing each other’s differences while they add on to each other. These two worlds create a bridge for Sara who can cross it if she so chooses, but if she does it would be a point of no return. It’s an excellent character study that is scarily reflective of how being passive towards body shaming is as damning as if you were holding the knife. Put simply, Piggy is not to be missed.

Piggy releases in theaters on Friday, October 14th.

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