Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 52 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
(Spanish with English subtitles)
Directed by: Alex De La Iglesia
Written by: Jorge Guerricaechevarria & Alex De La Iglesia
Starring: Hugo Silva, Mario Casas, Carmen Maura, Pepon Nieto & Carolina Bang
Spanish filmmaker Alex De La Iglesia revels in horror with a touch of absurd humor. I’ll admit that I haven’t seen his full filmography, but it’s probably not a stretch to say that THE LAST CIRCUS (in my top 10 foreign films of the last 10 years) is his masterpiece. This follow-up to that one-of-a-kind insane flick is a more traditional horror-comedy, but it’s far from average or predictable. As the title should foreshadow, this is one hell of an enjoyable ride involving witches and bitches. Think FROM DUSK TILL DAWN and take out the vampires, then replace them with a coven of man-eating witches practicing human sacrifices. That’s a pretty accurate description of WITCHING & BITCHING. If this sounds up your alley (it’s certainly up mine), then by all means dig in. I had a blast sitting through this Iglesia’s latest and it has a real possibility of becoming a flick that I will revisit every Halloween season.
Jose is a struggling victim of a recent divorce. In order to make ends meet, he’s committed a rather elaborate heist. In the escape process, he and a fellow thief have hopped into an occupied taxi. So to put things in perspective, two criminals, a cab driver, and an unwilling passenger are all thrown on the lam. One more unexpected tag-along comes in the form of Jose’s young son. Jose wouldn’t let a little thing like a violent armed robbery keep him away from one of his few custody days with his child. Fleeing to France, the group come across an eerie fog-laden village. This small town happens to have a population of vicious witches that intend to bring about the end of mankind altogether. Throw in Jose’s ex-wife and two cops on Jose’s tail, then you’ve got the recipe for all sorts of wacky mayhem this movie unleashes on the unsuspecting viewer.
Iglesia is never one to take the conventional road and that can very much be seen here. The film does go from point A to point B, but it also weaves around all the other points in the alphabet along the way. I saw plenty of images that I never imagined I would see in this movie and I’m an Iglesia fan. Gore, lots of imagination, and a pace that never lags once all contribute greatly to the overall entertainment factor. Some of the effects could have used one more quick touch-up (mainly seen in some CGI blood splatter during one moment and wall-crawling effects early on). Everything else comes off looking quite nicely though, especially one absolutely disgusting visual near the end. For the most part, WITCHING & BITCHING mixes practical work and CGI very well.
As an American naïve to a lot of foreign actors, I didn’t recognize a ton of faces. However, I did notice a few returning cast members from THE LAST CIRCUS. One of the more unconventional reveals is best left as a surprise, but it made me laugh pretty hard. The incredibly sexy Carolina Bang (acrobat Natalia from LAST CIRCUS) appears as the rebellious young witch. Frankly, I wouldn’t mind being put through the hardships some of these characters go through, if it meant a chance of making out with Carolina. Another familiar face was in Macarena Gomez (the half-octopus woman from DAGON) as one of the brujas (Spanish word for witches). The male leads all do great in their roles. Each character was so well-developed that I didn’t want any of them to die too horribly or at all. That was a rare change of pace to see a horror-comedy.
The pacing is excellent too. I never once felt that any part was dragging, even in the scenes before the witches are even encountered. It really is a fair comparison to throw this next to FROM DUSK TILL DAWN. Both films take a good chunk of time packing entertaining character development in the first third (perhaps, even a little longer) and then go into batshit nuts territory. Iglesia has most definitely kept his oddball tongue-in-cheek sense of humor for WITCHING & BITCHING. None of the laughs come from predictable cheap shots, dusty well-worn jokes, or splatstick. The movie could have easily drifted into any of these things, but Iglesia keeps driving through unfamiliar ground that supplies a whole lot of funny moments.
Coincidentally, my main problem with WITCHING & BITCHING is also the problem I had with THE DAY OF THE BEAST. We spend so much time with these characters and root for them to overcome supernatural odds every step of the way. The final showdown between good and evil comes off as a tiny bit anti-climactic in that I was thinking out loud “Really? That’s how this battle concludes? Okay, I guess.” Though that’s definitely a flaw in this great horror-comedy, I still highly enjoyed it every step of the way. It doesn’t detract as much as you might expect, because everything else makes up for that one issue.
Iglesia lets himself even further off the chain with WITCHING & BITCHING. One of the things witnessed in the opening scene is an armed criminal in a SpongeBob costume getting gunned down in a hail of bullets and blood splatter. It’s wild, ludicrous, and just how far the joke (which doesn’t just conclude with a deceased yellow sponge) goes makes it absolutely hilarious. Expect dark humor and over-the-top zaniness that never quits. This could seriously be described as a live-action cartoon. At nearly two hours, I was engrossed and laughing the whole time. WITCHING & BITCHING nails gore (mostly), atmosphere, humor, characters, creativity, and entertainment. It’s a wild and crazy ride that kicks a whole lot of ass. This supernatural battle of the sexes is recommended to those who are even the least bit intrigued by the film title WITCHING & BITCHING!