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’Piggy’ review: Dir. Carlota Pereda [Sundance 2022]

Several films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival originally began life as short films. The transition from short-form storytelling to full-length feature format can prove to be tricky. Some directors opt to use the idea within the short as a jumping off point (such as Jamie Dack with Palm Trees and Power Lines) whereas others use their existing story, inserting it into the feature to continue the narrative. This is the angle chosen by Carlota Pereda for her Sundance 2022 offering, Piggy. 

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Pereda’s original short saw Sara (Laura Galán) horribly tormented by a trio of bullies whilst trying to enjoy a swim. Not content with almost drowning her, the girls also run off with her clothing, which means her only option is to go home wearing nothing but her bikini. Along the way she encounters a nondescript white van that is harbouring her aggressors. Sara then makes a somewhat controversial decision to ignore her classmates’ plight. It makes for an incredibly powerful fifteen minutes, and it is this sequence that forms the basis of the feature film. 

Pereda doesn’t jump immediately into this familiar material, instead of rewinding the story further back in time in order to add a little more colour to Sara. Bullied incessantly about her weight by the youth of the town, Sara spends her days studying whilst working in her family’s butcher shop. Her parents are oblivious to their daughter’s plight, and her mother heaps on her own brand of meanness. It all makes for a lonely existence for Sara and even her one joy, a peaceful swim, becomes tainted. At this juncture, the story aligns with the short, Pereda maximising the extended runtime by building the tension to painful heights. 

It isn’t the relatively silent killer that generates the horror in Piggy. His actions are obviously horrific, but the real fear and torment of the piece comes much earlier on in the form of Sara’s bullies. The viciousness of Sara’s torment was a little lost in the short, but with some context here, the viewer feels Sara’s fear when she spies her bullies coming towards her. The eventual attack by the trio benefits from being given time to breathe, the girls getting progressively more vicious in their attack until the chilling moment they cross the line. It’s a lot to take in, but its power is the highlight of the entire film. 

The tension is retained for the duration of Sara’s “walk of shame” as she is further tormented by the townsfolk and the revelation of the bullies in the back of the van is handled well. From here on however, Piggy starts to lose its momentum. As soon as the story parts ways with the short, the pace and tone become uneven. A lot of time and emphasis is placed within Sara’s home as she struggles with her conscience. The nature of her complicity is explored; she does not stop the killer and decides not to alert the police to the situation, which in effect means that she has helped him kidnap her classmates. But the issue here isn’t black or white, there are many shades of grey to be explored. These girls repeatedly brutalised her verbally and the shift to physical assault clearly causes some mental trauma. Does anyone deserve the fate that the bullies are likely to get? Or is it a karmic way of addressing the balance. Watching Sara wrestle with this inner conundrum is interesting to a point, but the repetition of going over the same trail of thought sags, and the story meanders.  

What keeps the viewer engaged despite the wobbly narrative is the stunning performance by lead Laura Galán. Galán reprises her role of Sara having originally played the character in the short; all that time living in Sara’s head has helped the actor to really sell the part. Much of her performance is silent, an effective mirroring of the killer, but Galán has an expressive face that conveys the complexity of her emotions effortlessly. It takes a strong actor to attempt to play a character as traumatised as Sara, but Galán approaches it with a calmness that allows Sara’s anguish to speak for itself. Galán commits further by putting her body through the wringer. The part of Sara is a very physical one, there’s lots of swimming, diving, and above all, running, which requires a certain amount of stamina. Galán conveys Sara’s exhaustion whilst somehow managing to have shot the scenes take after take after take. This exertion is intensified when you factor in the hot climate in which the story is set. Finally Galán proves her dedication to Sara by embracing Sara’s costumes (or lack thereof). There are not many actors who would agree to spend much of a film in something as flimsy as a bikini. This flimsy attire has been chosen to fully highlight Sara’s emotional vulnerability and was Galán to have declined and insisted on more layers, an important facet of the character would have been lost. 

Once the blistering pace of the opening third of the film has stalled, it’s hard to rev things up again. Whilst some interesting and unexpected revelations during the finale do spark some attention, it never reclaims that stunning beginning. Nonetheless, this is not an example of ‘not quite a short that should have stayed as just that’. The build-up to Sara’s attack and the subsequent kidnapping benefits from the extra time to infuse the right emotions and feelings of dread. But once through the established plot of the short, Piggy finds itself on unsteady ground, though never enough to fully lose its audience thanks to a fantastic lead performance. 


Kat Hughes



Throwing the harshness of bullying and a murky take on complicity into the forefront, Piggy begins intensely well but then starts to sag. Fortunately, it has a fantastic central performance by Laura Galán to rely on.


Piggy was reviewed at Sundance 2022. 

Kat Hughes is a UK born film critic and interviewer who has a passion for horror films. An editor for THN, Kat is also a Rotten Tomatoes Approved Critic. She has bylines with Ghouls Magazine, Arrow Video, Film Stories, Certified Forgotten and FILMHOUNDS and has had essays published in home entertainment releases by Vinegar Syndrome and Second Sight. When not writing about horror, Kat hosts micro podcast Movies with Mummy along with her five-year-old daughter.


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