Directed by Álex de la Iglesia
Tailor-made for a midnight crowd at Fantastic Fest, Alex de la Iglesia’s latest, Witching and Bitching, certainly has the maniacal flourish of his previous festival entry, The Last Circus, but it’s more of an all out assault on the senses and the sexes. Iglesia is unrestrained and borderline juvenile at the helm, leading to a sometimes crazed, often hilarious horror adventure film that pits bank-robbers against witches and men against women.
If the Hollywood Boulevard documentary Confessions of a Superhero taught us anything, it was never to trust costumed loiterers luring tourists over to pose uncomfortably with their children. In the riotous opening to Witching and Bitching, a group of these miscreants consisting of a passion play Jesus painted in silver (Hugo Silva), a green toy soldier (Mario Casas), Minnie Mouse, and The Invisible Man run loose in the streets as the police chase them after a botched robbery attempt. Setting the tone for the battle of the sexes, Jose (a.k.a. painted Jesus) brings his kid along to help out since it’s his weekend to take care to him, and Tony (a.k.a. toy soldier) curses his girlfriend after she innocently drives away in the getaway car.
Desperate to stay out of jail, they head out of town but their troubles only get worse when they hit an old woman in the middle of the road who happens to lead a large coven of witches.
Once taken prisoner, the chemically unbalanced, rock n’ roll granddaughter (the sexy Carolina Bang) happens to take a shine to Jose, and he tries everything in his power to say the right thing and keep her from becoming a crazed girlfriend that only wants him for herself. There are a number of entertaining scenes with the two of them that mirror the arguments of real-life couples, and the racy conversations that the other witches have with each other are also reminiscent of what men fear real girl talk is actually like.
Unfortunately for these men, who are especially fed up with the women in their lives, they happen to wind up strapped to a dinner table within the confines of a house located in the town of Zugarramurdi, an area that’s actually famous for its occult activity and home to the “day of the witch” celebration taking place every year on the summer solstice. The coven, convinced that Jose’s child is the key to an ancient ceremony, journey down into the Witch caves below to start a celebration that looks almost like an all-girl version of the rave scene in The Matrix Reloaded.
After the ritual is complete, the real mayhem begins, as the ceremony unleashes a giant, troll-like Id-Witch that could serve as a very light metaphor for a full moon, PMS rampage as the all-CGI creature stomps through the crowd. Barely escaping with their lives, the captured men are chased mercilessly by a bevy of witches in a finale that comes close to topping the energy of the film’s opening number.
All in all, Witching and Bitching does run a little too long, with too many jokes and idiot characters, but the sweetness of its ending does a lot to pave over the film’s more irritating moments. If Jose and Tony would have stayed in their Jesus and soldier costumes the entire time, there might have been more opportunity for light commentary on religious control and man’s love of war, but Witching and Bitching is a lot more interested in making you laugh and holler, even if that results in a somewhat hollow film at times.
3 out of 5