The Spanish import “Witching & Bitching,” on DVD Oct. 14, offers a burst of horror and comedy along with a dissection of modern sexual roles. For every sliced appendage there’s a riff on dating or courtship, and somehow director/co-writer Alex de la Iglesia combines it all without letting the film’s energy droop.
It’s a runaway train of silly characters, monster mayhem and ruminations on single fatherhood. It’s messy at times and too silly for its own good, but that’s what happens when you’re telling an original story brimming with ambition.
Single father Jose (Hugo Silva) and dense partner Tony (Mario Casas) rob a bank in the film’s opening moments, each dressed as colorful street performers. Their getaway hits several snags, but at least they bagged a satchel full of gold rings among the loot.
Oh, and Jose’s young son Sergio helped daddy knock over the bank in question.
The crew, along with a taxi driver pressed into their service, are heading to the Spanish border when they run into a community populated by witches. Their bad luck is about to head seriously south.
Both men and women fare poorly here, but that’s hardly the point. “Witching and Bitching” captures a cultural moment when the standard gender roles are in flux, and some men aren’t sure where they stand.
Our heroes are alternately afraid of and intimidated by powerful women. cursing their ability to dump them whenever it suits their needs. The notion of a sexually aggressive women confuses them, though Jose takes solace in his white-hot anger toward his ex.
The witches themselves represent a perverted brand of feminism, seeking empowerment through ghastly rituals and androgyny. Two drag witches and one atypical crush adds to the sense of gender lines being purposely blurred.
Little of this sounds funny, but Iglesia keeps the laughs coming thanks to the whipsmart script and a game cast. Casas gives a stereotypically dense character heart and texture, while Silva embraces his straight man persona without reservation.
Carolina Bang is beguiling as a twitchy temptress, the kind a sane man might consider against all of his better judgment. And when Bang and her allies take flight, the effects are crude, but endearing, several notches below what Hollywood delivers sans apology.
“Witching & Bitching” could use a snip or two, its final moments stretching beyond its satirical strengths. And that superfluous ending feels tacked on without merit. It’s still a creative jolt to a genre that could use a kick in the pants.
The DVD arrives with featurettes on both the story and the kooky cast of characters.
DID YOU KNOW: The era of the Salem Witch Trials ended in 1693 when those imprisoned on witchcraft charges were released and pardoned.