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Witching & Bitching (2013)
DVD Released: 10/14/2014
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/24/2014
OK, let's be honest Witching & Bitching is a terrible title for a
movie. The film is a Spanish production and the original title is Las brujas
de Zugarramurdi, which translates to "The Witches of Zugarramurdi". (Zugarramudi
is a town featured in the film.) That title is perfectly suitable and accurately
describes something which occurs in the film. Witching & Bitching may rhyme, but
it's also somewhat stupid and the term "bitching" may be offensive to some. The
fact that this title also accurately describes events from the film is somewhat
irrelevant. The bottom-line is that this misguided title may frighten some
people away from an entertaining film.
As Witching & Bitching opens, Jose (Hugo Silva) and Antonio (Mario Casas) pull off a bold crime. Dressed as street performers (Jesus Christ and a Toy Soldier respectively), they rob a jewelry store. To make things even more interesting, Jose has his young son, Sergio (Gabriel Delgado), in tow, as he's divorced and didn't want to pass up time with the boys. Unfortunately, their get away car has gotten away, so they jump into a cab and force the driver, Manuel (Jaime Ordonez), to flee form the police. The fugitives decide to head for the French border, which passes through the town of Zugarramudi. Along the way, they stop at a café, and encounter some strange locals. Once they reach the town, the men and Sergio find themselves assisting an old woman which leads them to a decrepit mansion where they find that the rumors about the town may be true.
Witching & Bitching comes from Director Alex de la Iglesia, who is known for his wild movies, and this is no exception. The opening scene contains a great deal of kinetic action and fast cuts, as the heist turns into a gunfight and a car-chase. Things settle down for a bit after that, but once the men reach the old mansion, the movie really gets crazy. The witches can walk on walls and leap very far, so they are running all over the place as the men are trying to escape. The finale features a ceremony which will make even the most jaded horror fan sit up and take notice. There is some mild gore here, but it is somewhat cringe inducing.
But, this is not exactly a straight-ahead horror film. As noted above, despite the fact that Witching & Bitching is an awful title, it is somewhat on the nose. When the movie doesn’t have crazed witches leaping across the screen, it is a tongue-in-cheek study of relationships. Every character in the film is involved in some sort of relationship, be that romantic, platonic, or business, and they all complain about the politics of these unions and how hard it is to trust and please someone. The movie clearly has a lot to say on this subject and it’s interesting how many of the scenes slowly segue into a conversation on how Jose doesn’t get along with his ex-wife or how young witch Eva (Carolina Bang) is looking for a man. Some genuine humor emerges from these conversations, typically because they arise at the most unlikely of moments. In addition, there is a nice amount of black humor and some slapstick as well.
Witching & Bitching is certainly an interesting movie in the sense that it’s so many things rolled into one. Not unlike From Dusk Til Dawn, it opens with a crime and then follows the criminals as they find themselves in a supernatural situation. But, the movie is also peppered with themes of relationships and some funny moments. The result is a film which certainly held my attention, but I never felt that it was achieving any of its goals. The arthouse absurdity of the arguments which are about arguments really clashes with the monster mash which is the finale, resulting in something that never gels. Those who like European films which offer something different from the norm will find this appealing, but just don’t expect to fall in love with it.
Witching & Bitching crossed “Visit a rural French bathroom” off of my list on DVD courtesy of IFC. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing only a trace of grain in a few shots. The image is never overly dark or bright (even though there are some dark scenes) and the colors look good, most notably Antonio’s green makeup. The image is a bit soft at times, but the picture is stable throughout. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. While I’ve been spoiled by lossless tracks on Blu-ray Discs, this is a fine track in its own right. The stereo effects are well-done and show good separation. The surround sound effects are abundant during the action sequences and display distinct sounds. The subwoofer is active as well, but it really comes to life during the finale.
The Witching & Bitching DVD contains a few extras. We get three brief featurettes. In "The Story" (3 minutes), Director Alex de la Iglesia gives us an overview of the film's basic plot. "The Characters" (4 minutes) has Iglesia describing each of the main players in the story. "Heist in Puerta Del Sol" (3 minutes) takes us on-set to see how the manic opening scene was pulled off. The final extra is a TRAILER for the film.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long