Take the premise of From Dusk Till Dawn criminals on the run who stumble upon evil forces and you have a vague idea of the territory that Spanish horror-comedy, Witching and Bitching is heading. Instead of blood-feasting vampires, we have a variety of flesh-hungry witches who want to destroy the world and instead of George Clooney, we have perhaps his Spanish equivalent Hugo Silva. Of course Witching and Bitching does not need this Rodriguez comparison to prop itself up – it is a solidly enjoyable horror comedy in its own right.
After robbing a Madrid store, a group of criminals go on the run with the intention of escaping to France. However, these plans are put on hold when the gang stumble upon a coven of witches intent of destroying civilization.
Writer-Director Álex de la Iglesia (The Oxford Murders) captures a seamless blend of horror and comedy with an opening featuring a variety of Spanish street mascots (including a silver Jesus and a Spongebob Squarepants) holding up a ‘cash for gold’ store setting the laugh-out-loud tone of the film. This comic tone is still ever present when the film adopts more horror characteristics – even the gory visuals are packed with an amusing edge. Unfortunately, the main gag wears thin fast – Iglesia flogs the joke that males are unable to understand the power of a woman, so much so that it get can get a little tiring hearing it.
Iglesia packs the film with a strong Gothic energy in the latter half when the criminals stumble upon the witches. Although the proceedings become slightly formulaic when the group are captured and held prisoner, there remains a buzzing comic energy that keeps things solidly entertaining. There is a Hammer-like sheen (think She) to many of the set-pieces, most notably an impressively staged ritual scene in the film’s conclusion.
A variety of enthusiastic performances also keep the tone of Witching and Bitching consistently fun and watchable. Hugo Silva for the most part plays the straight-man but clearly embraces the manic tone of the film. His co-stars Jaime Ordóñez and Mario Casas handle the gags well showcasing a strong sense of comic timing, but it is a small role from I’m So Excited star Carlos Areces which steals many of the films comic triumphs.
Witching and Bitching does not always work, but for the most part this is a horror-comedy done well. It is loaded with manic energy and amusing chaos handled competently by director Iglesia and stars Silva, Casas and Ordóñez.
Film Factory Entertainment (Spain)
22nd & 23rd February 2014 (Glasgow Film Festival)
Álex de la Iglesia
Hugo Silva, Jaime Ordóñez, Mario Casas