Directed by: Álex de la Iglesia
Starring: Hugo Silva, Mario Casas, and Carolina Bang
Director Álex de la Iglesia has been making his brand of satire filled stylistic dramas for the past twenty years, yet he is still relatively unknown stateside. “The Last Circus” and “800 Bullets” are his most recognized works but it may be the frenzied “Witching and Bitching” that draws the most attention from genre fans looking for something different. With a blend of melodrama meeting horror, de la Iglesia produces a bizarre and humorous excursion.
Jose (Hugo Silva) is a struggling father trying to make the best for his 8-year-old son Sergio (Gabriel Delgado). Unfortunately Jose’s idea for making a better life involves a daylight robbery of a jewelry store with Sergio playing accomplice along with his partner Tony (Mario Casas). Things don’t go as smoothly as Jose would like but he narrowly escapes capture in a cab and takes the driver Manuel (Jaime Ordóñez) hostage. The group is in retreat to a remote border town called Zugarramurdi. But freedom becomes more complicated as the town they enter is home to a coven of witches.
From the beginning moments the attitude of the film is rather playful, as the group of robbers are dressed in all manner of extravagant costuming. The beginning heist is filled with comic moments that range from slapstick to jeering banter. De la Iglesia has a knack for crafting grand displays of scenery full of interesting imagery while also composing rapid-fire exposition that surprisingly compliments the story. In one scene during a hectic and violent getaway the four characters bicker about their lives and relationships amidst gunshots and car crashes, it’s a great action sequence but an even better introduction to the characters.
Once the opening assault is over the film steadies as the group escapes to a border town known for being a home to witchcraft. It’s at this point that the film turns into something different, less crime and more horror though the comedy remains. While this transition isn’t bad the contradicting decisions the characters begin to make threatens to derail the momentum established early. Jose is a father making terrible choices for the sake of his son, but when the film needs to lead the characters further into the realm of the witches Jose suddenly forgets about his son. It’s ruins the development of his character along with the camaraderie of the group. The spectacle continues, too much, into an effects heavy ending that feels out of place for the rest of the film.
Álex De la Iglesia is an accomplished director and it shows early with “Witching and Bitching”. At its core the film is a melodrama about the varying dynamics of relationships between men and women. Set amid the perils of criminal activity, the collapse of companionship, and the threat of witches, de la Iglesia’s film skips around as much his frenzied editing style. While this unconventional style may not suit every fan “Witching and Bitching” is still amusing and funny enough to warrant a watch.
3.00 out of 5.00