Witching & Bitching
Leon casino, A group of thieves steal loads of gold from a store and then hightail it out of the city with police in pursuit. The robbery and subsequent chase are filmed in an exciting manner suggesting Witching & Bitching will be a crime thriller. As the title hints at the macabre we know it will be anything but. The fact that the lead man of the robbers has brought his estranged young son along while he has visiting rights clues us in that we should expect comedy.
If you’re familiar with Spanish director Álex de la Iglesia you know that the humor will be black comedy with spoofs of the horrific thrown in for good cheer. Iglesia helmed one of my favorite films, a 1995, ah, black comedy, Day of the Beast; a film that won Iglesia the Goya Award for Best Director. Films by this sharp director should be on your want-to-see list. Recently Iglesia has made The Last Circus (2010) and As Luck Would Have It (2011) both of which got little or no distribution in North America. Witching & Bitching, opening this weekend at the Alamo Drafthouse Vintage Park, more recently swept the Goya Awards (although Iglesia wasn’t nommed), which says a lot about a country that gives its highest film accolades to satire wrapped in horror genre antics.
Witching & Bitching works as an English title although it could easily be a song title being sung by Samantha and her alter ego Serena from television’s Bewitched. It just sounds campy. The Spanish title is Las brujas de Zugarramurdi, referring to a town in Northern Spain known historically for its connection to 17th century witch trials. After all, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. The region currently celebrates an annual witch holiday.
After the action packed first act, Witching & Bitching has the bad guys (who are really good guys at heart) arriving at an out of the way tavern where their fortunes change. Iglesia keeps the feeling tense but never loses sight of the inherent comedy to be mined from being prisoners of a coven of witches. You’re bound at a dining table wearing a dunce cap only the appetizers are your fingers.
Complications ensue when one of the younger witches develops a crush on one of the robbers. The little kid is earmarked for a sacrifice at a bizarre cave ritual for which hundred of witches have gathered. The cave setting reminds viewers of the cave rave from the last Matrix film. Even the lead bad guy’s ex-wife shows up with her own agenda. Iglesia ends with a coda that hints that all the characters on display are suited to entertain the mass public with grotesque magic shows.
- Michael Bergeron