Director Brian De Palma captured the horrors of adolescent bullying in 1976’s “Carrie.” Now Spanish director Carlota Martínez-Pereda’s debut feature, “Piggy,” is an honorable successor.
While Carrie (Sissy Spacek) stood in the middle of a prom stage drenched in blood, Sara, the Piggy of the title, stands in the middle of the road, covered in blood. Carrie uses telekinesis to get her revenge. Sara (Laura Galán) has a serial killer in her corner.
The movie takes place in a Spanish village near the border with Portugal, during the summer. Sara’s parents own the butcher shop, and she helps at the counter while her dad chops meat and her mom tends to customers. The opening credits show the unsavory reality of a butcher shop, with slashing and chopping and grinding.
Sara, who is way overweight, tries to escape the monotony while wearing headphones and checking out Instagram on her cell phone. To her horror, some of the so-called cool girls in town have come into the shop and taken a photo of Sara and her parents, labeling the photos as “The Three Little Piggies.”
Sara endures more taunting when she walks to the village pool to swim. Teenage boys make fun of her, and the same girls who posted a photo of Sara’s family on Instagram find Sara in the pool and start taunting her again. They notice a strange man (Richard Holmes) taking a dip at the same time, and they make fun of him and Sara, saying they must be a couple.
Even more serious, they use a pool net to cover Sara’s head. Sara panics and nearly drowns, but she eventually dives underwater and escapes, with cinematographer Rita Noriega’s camera following her. Sara doesn’t react to what she sees at the depths of the pool, and the camera doesn’t make an issue of it either. But there’s a man’s body weighted at the pool’s bottom, and it’s gushing blood.
When Sara finally surfaces, she watches as the girls take her clothes, cell phone, towel and shoes and walk away. Sara starts crying but decides to take the long walk home in her skimpy bikini. She is humiliated, of course, but on the quiet road home, she sees a van. And she sees the man who was in the pool. And she sees the cool girls being abducted by the strange man. The girls scream for Sara’s help, but Sara just watches. And the strange man takes a long look at Sara, drops some clothing for her on the road and drives away.
So begins a twisted tale of torture and killings that unfolds in Sara’s once-sleepy town, with the parents of the abducted girls demanding to know whether Sara saw anything at the pool, and with authorities wanting to know what Sara saw at the pool that day. (The discovery of the man’’s body at the bottom of pool sets off a frenzy in town.) Sara remains quiet.
To say more would be to give away too many plot points. But the movie plays out as a moral choice for Sara: Whether to tell the truth or say to hell with the girls.
As Sara/Piggy, Galán shows great potential. The torture that she endures at the hands of the mean girls almost matches that which is meted out on said girls. And Martinez-Pereda’s assured direction means she will probably be swallowed up by Hollywood as soon as possible.
“Piggy” debuted at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. It was part of the Fantastic Fest lineup at the recent Austin event, where it won best horror film.
Of all the Halloween movies this year, “Piggy” is one of the best.
It opens Oct. 7 at the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar, and on Oct. 14, it goes in wider release. It’s in Spanish, with English subtitles.