Director – Alex de la Iglesia
Cast – Hugo Silva, Mario Casas, Pepón Nieto, Carolina Bang, Terele Pávez, Jaime Ordóñez, Gabriel Ángel Delgado, Santiago Segura, Macarena Gómez, Sacun de la Rosa, Javier Botet, Enrique Villén, Carlos Areces, Manuel Tallafé, María Barranco
Release Year – 2014
Reviewed by John of the Dead
This film has been on my queue for at least two years and I am kicking myself for taking as long as I did to give it a watch. From Spanish cult director Alex de la Iglesia (The Day of the Beast, The Last Circus), Witching & Bitching is just what I needed to compliment this Halloween season. From start to finish it perfectly blends comedy and horror in what results in a 110-minute ride filled with outrageous antics that suck you in. I couldn’t believe some of the things I saw, and they came executed so well that I am currently “bitching” at myself for missing out as long as I did.
After fumbling a jewelry heist, Jose, Tony, and Jose’s young son Sergio are on the run from the authorities and especially from Jose’s ex-wife. Their troubles are amplified when they are forced to take refuge for the night in the notorious village of Zugarramurdi, where a coven of witches kidnap them in preparation for a fertility sacrifice that is anything but pleasant.
Alex and his long-time co-writer Jorge Guerricaechevarria pen this piece, giving genre fans a taste of good horror blended with effective comedy. The flick begins with the jewelry heist, where the thieves are dressed as street performers as part of their cover. The hilarity is already kicking into gear thanks to them being in silly costumes, and things are kicked up a notch when they are forced to run from the police like this. Because he needs to take advantage of visitation privileges with his son, Jose decides to bring the very young Sergio along for the ride. He isn’t just there for the ride though, as he too is pointing guns at people. You can see why Jose is not on good terms with Sergio’s mother, a responsible nurse. The three escape with the forced help of a taxi driver and his client, and they arrive in Zugarramurdi about 28 minutes in to the film. This first act doesn’t have too much to do with the horror. Instead it sets up the characters, the dynamic between them, and their predicament. Jose isn’t just on the run from the authorities now. His fuming ex wife is also on the lookout for him after involving her son in a stickup gone bad. With so many forces at play the film’s 110 minutes don’t feel like 110 minutes. This story moves briskly without rushing and leaving too much dead air, which indicates good pacing by the writers. It takes 53 minutes for the witching to finally begin, leaving roughly an hour of the goods to enjoy. Thankfully, I was enjoying the film well before the horror kicked in thanks to hilarious antics and the looming anticipation of what would lie before them as night set in.
When the horror kicks into gear it never relents. The use of the witches is amazing, as they bounce off walls and bring with them classic lore of consuming frog/toad blood, making potions, and cooking their guests alive. This is all “boiling” up to a sacrificial ceremony that will leave your eyes springing out of their sockets. I won’t ruin the final sequences for you, but let’s just say you will probably laugh at the insanity going on.
Alex De La Iglesias’ direction of the film is fantastic, bringing every element to life and doing so as a veteran who has not lost a step. He begins with the characters, whose actors execute them to full potential. The performances can be a little cheesy sometimes, but that is because of the comedic element. This is especially the case with the witches, namely the exotic Eva (portrayed by Alex’s wife Carolina Bang), yet I found them fun and not detrimental to the film. Yugo Silva is perfect as Jose, expertly blending numbskull attitude with redeeming qualities that make him hard to dislike. Just…don’t marry Jose. The real testament to Iglesias’ direction is the horror, which is some of the best that 2014 has to offer. I loved how he executed the witches and the horror they delivered. We are given classic witches living on the outskirts of a modern society, so they are not watered down in the least. Iglesias’ high intensity action sequences deliver asses kicked as well as some decent gore at times. The only negative would be that some gore scenes come with CGI blood, but thankfully I was having too much fun to care.
Overall, Witching & Bitching is a great Spanish horror film I recommend to all. From start to finish it’s fun, unrelenting in comedy, and damn good with its horror. This would be especially fun to watch during this Halloween season.