Witching and Bitching

[a.k.a. Las Brujas de Zugarramurdi]
Dir: Alex de la Iglesia
Star: Hugo Silva, Mario Casas, Carmen Maura, Carolina Bang

I think it's safe to say that de la Iglesia has some issues with women. This is clear, right from an opening credit sequence, whose montage of famous women includes both Myra Hindley and Margaret Thatcher, and continues through a script which takes a group of bumbling Spanish jewel robbers, and sends them on the lam after their heist goes wrong. With the police in dogged pursuit, our perps head for the border, intending to take refuge in France, and are joined by the taxi driver and passenger whom they take hostage - all of whom have problems with the ladies in their lives. Everyone ends up, conveniently for the plot, in the middle of Zugarramurdi, a rural town that's the local version of Salem, where all the women are part of a Satanic cult, devoted to bringing about the return of the mother goddess. To make matters worse, the son of the thieves' leader, Jose (Silva), is actually the "chosen one", whom prophecy has foretold needs to be reborn to bring about these events.

At times, this is smart, witty and effective, especially when the director concentrates on the smaller-scale things: the conversation between the five occupants of the taxi, as it heads North, is beautifully written and performed, and there are two scenes which will make you think very hard about using a rural restroom ever again. However, the longer the film goes on, the further it seems to drift away from what it does well, ending in a climactic underground ceremony that far outstays its welcome, makes no sense, and adds nothing to the film, beyond an echo of the climax to Peter Jackson's Braindead. This is the kind of sledgehammer satire where a little goes a long way, and de la Iglesia doesn't have the necessary lightness of touch wielding said sledgehammer. To be honest, the film had run out of steam some way before reaching its excessive finale; after you've seen Almodovar stalwart Maura walking on the ceiling, casually dusting a chandelier, you might as well turn this off, because it's all downhill from there.

[May 2014]

The witching hour-and-three-quarters
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