Witching & Bitching review

Earlier this year I bought TheGeekgasmBlog.com with the intention to do what I want, when I want. I’ve always been drawn to films. When I was a child my father was stationed in the Philippines and we had one English language station so my Grandmother would make recordings for us. We also bought an emergent technology called Laserdisc. Between these two resources we devoured tons of films in our household for the three years we lived there from the mid- to late 80’s. This intense connection with films has continued through the rest of my life. Films like “Witching & Bitching” are always my favorites to discover on this journey, films that don’t get a lot of press, huge releases, massive accolades, yet are wonderful, exciting, fun gems all their own. “Witching & Bitching” is a great movie because it works on multiple levels.

Jesus Christ, Spongebob Squarepants, Minnie Mouse, a Plastic Toy Soldier, and an Invisible Man all populate the dynamic opening scene set in Spain’s Puerta Del Sol. After an intense robbery that goes awry, in which Jesus’ ten year old son becomes embroiled in the shoot out with the police, what’s left of the crew make an impromptu escape in a hijacked, and occupied, taxi. Hunted by the police, a justifiably angry ex-wife, dogged by a scared passenger, and a child growing hungrier by the minute the plan has fallen apart, the thieves are desperate, and searching for a realistic out. What else could go wrong this day? Driving without a destination they are heading toward a powerful coven of cannibalistic witches on the eve of a major ceremony, and their coming has been foretold. Their bad day is about to become a terrible night. 

The opening sequence is exciting. It is funny. And it is visually arresting. The cacophony of visually stunning characters dominating the screen: a silver painted Christ, a solid green soldier, and of course the huge yellow Spongebob Squarepants fill the screen. Now contrast the usual joviality of Spongebob and add an uzi. It isn’t a scene played just for laughs though, their costumes make sense while allowing for great humor to naturally occur. The inclusion of Jesus’s child is another such decision that works on multiple levels.

Jesus is actually Jose (Hugo Silva), and he has custody of his son Sergio (Gabriel Delgado) this weekend and doesn’t want to miss spending time with him, so he brings him along on the robbery. The robbery is inspired by his relationship with Sergio as well, for Jose wants to leave his son something better than meager child support payments. All of these elements are wonderfully balanced by director Alex de la Iglesia in such a manner that what might have come across at tasteless in lesser hands works masterfully in this film. de la Iglesia knows just when to play elements up for comedy, when to farm them for drama and sympathy, and when to emphasize the action. He sets all of these pieces up so well that by the time our gang of thieves, hostages, and converts arrive in Zugarramurdi, the town of witches, we are comfortable with the tone and ready for the rest of the crazy ride.

The coven is lead by a trio of witches, Maritxu (Terele Pavez) the old mother, Graciana (Carmen Maura) her daughter, and young, crazy, sexy Eva (Carolina Bang). Eva is tall, blonde, has a partially shaved head, and able to shift gears from lovely and seductive to absolutely psychotic and depraved at the drop of a hat. She steals the show with ease and seems to have fun with her role. Maritxu milks her role as the older crone for great laughs as well, vacillating between dementia and emboldened madness she is anchored well by her daughter who is a calm villainy. They are the great trio at the head of grand coven of witches who welcome the new meals that waltz into their clutches.

“Witching & Bitching” has its tongue firmly planted in cheek. The thieves are all males, the witches are all women. The thieves, save the son, are all having issues with women: divorce, financial woes, gendered power issues. The witches obviously have historical issues with men as men have not only feared the power of witches, but the power of women. One only has to look at the ridiculous and reactionary “men’s right movement” to see that what the women complain about has a basis in reality. All of the characters constantly use gendered and passé stereotypes to bitch about the perceived wrongs committed to their gender, when in reality not one person in this film doesn’t do harm to at least one person through a decision they make, and I’m not talking about just in defense of themselves. These bitching sessions are played for laughs throughout the film and are often well-placed, for in the midst of fleeing from the cops, trying to escape bloodthirsty witches, or tailing a potential lead, characters squabble about gender politics or sexual identity issues.

The film doesn’t skimp of the viscousness either, after all this is a coven of cannibalistic witches we encounter, and they have great power. Whether is walking on ceilings, scrambling on walls, summoning a massive deity, or severing a victims ear all the effects are handled well, save for some wires left visible during a massive aerial battle at the climax. The sheer size of the coven was impressive and I applaud the scope of de la Iglesia’s vision in crafting a powerful town of witches. The setting, in the house and massive caverns beneath it were awe inspiring, dread inducing, and richly intricate, especially the enormous dining room set.

All-in-all “Witching & Bitching” is a film that deftly handles the problematic horror-comedy hybrid. The witches are a viable threat and while the body count isn’t high, nor are there buckets and buckets of blood, these ladies are not to be trifled with. Some elements of the climax are puzzling, especially when you consider that this coven has done this over and over again, one must wonder why would the witches stand where they do, act surprised, and flee in terror? And there is the question of Eva’s brother, but other than these two questions that linger, and the last one might be resolved in subsequent viewings, (of which there will be many) I found “Witching & Bitching” so thrilling that I’m now actively pursuing other films directed by Alex de la Iglesia. I would highly recommend this fun film to fans of fun, off-the-wall, original, horror-comedy.  

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