Film Reviews

Witching & Bitching Is a Joyous, Sexist Mess

A major achievement in sunny wretchedness, Álex de la Iglesia’s splatter-comedy Witching & Bitching projectile pukes its outrages at you with a gusto recalling the early days of those (sadly) reformed upchuckers Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson. De la Iglesia doesn’t share those directors’ interest in making clear just why characters do the dumb things they’re doing, but he’s a whiz at house-of-horrors hilarity: Eyes peep up from scummed-over toilet drains, a gummy-mouthed matriarch menaces the leads after slapping in a grill toothed like a bear-trap, and all the flesh-gouging and man-eating proves as amiable as it is protracted.

It’s fun even when it makes no sense. In the thick of the first of many mad climaxes, the alpha dopey hero, bound to a chair and expecting to be the main course at a witches’ feast, begins digging a dinner knife into the wrist of the beta dopey hero tied up next to him. He’s not sawing away at the ropes, he’s just grinding through his buddy’s flesh, for reasons known only to de la Iglesia, but at least this creates the opportunity for some choice squishing from the foley artists.

What story there is follows inept crooks after a clever/dumb heist in Madrid: Pretending to be street performers dressed as SpongeBob Squarepants, a plastic army man, and a silver spray-painted Christ, a few misogynistic louts hold up a pawnshop and then try to escape to France with a sack of hocked wedding rings — and Sergio (Gabriel Delgado), the eight-year-old that lead crook Jose (Hugo Silva) brought along, as it was his weekend with the boy. They’re fleeing the cops and Sergio’s furious mother (the wonderful Macarena Gómez, as off-kilter as a pinball machine just before it tilts). As they go, the fellows bitch about the awfulness of women while being so plainly, hilariously awful themselves, you’d be churlish to take offense. (Yet.)

But as the title suggests, the women of Witching & Bitching do turn out to be a special breed of awful, especially when the men wind up in a decrepit forest town ruled by a gloriously gruesome coven: The witches there, mostly aged and cackling, feast on fingers, skitter along the ceilings, and would just love to get that little boy roasting in an oven. Their unholy dinner party builds into a surprisingly grand subterranean revel, double-stuffed with gross-out gags and expertly staged and shot.

At first, the witching seems a lampooning of the hero’s pickle-brained sexism. But, hey, see that witch-to-be in the fetching black bra squeezing toad-guts onto the broomstick she’s humping? That’s Eva (Carolina Bang), not yet a cannibalistic monster; her descent into sudden, tempestuous, choose-me -- or-your-friends love with Jose sours the fun. She’s not a witch, just some idiot dudes’ idea of a bitch, a dispiriting suggestion that the leads’ complaints about the madness of women seem to be shared by the filmmakers, too.

She’s more grotesque than even the bloated goddess of hair and bosom that the coven attempts to summon in the delirious final reels. If you can choke back the ill-considered nastiness of Bad Girlfriend Witch the rest is choice, the rare wannabe cult hit that smears the screen in grade-A craziness.

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Alan Scherstuhl is film editor and writer at Voice Media Group. VMG publications include Denver Westword, Miami New Times, Phoenix New Times, Dallas Observer, Houston Press and New Times Broward-Palm Beach.
Contact: Alan Scherstuhl