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Witching & Bitching | Blu-ray Review

Witching & Bitching Blu-ray CoverSpanish director Alex de la Iglesia returns with Witching and Bitching, a nod to his particular brand of zany, over-the-top genre comedy that marked some of his better known titles from 1990s, particularly The Day of the Beast (1995). Bigger budgets and a cadre of returning cast members from his filmography make his latest film of a higher pedigree than those roughhewn beginnings, but the director still insists on bloating his running time as an overstuffed extravaganza. As usual, this gilds the energetic exuberance to a desensitizing mass of standout moments rising out of chintzy, cheeseball antics.

Disguised as live street performers in Madrid, Jose (Hugo Silva) and Tony (Mario Casas) hold up a jewel shop and steal a bunch of gold rings. Jose is desperate to flee with his son from ex-wife Silvia (Macarena Gomez) since he’s tired of paying alimony. While several of their street performing cohorts are ruthlessly gunned down by the police (unfortunately, this includes SpongeBob Squarepants), Jose and Tony are forced to take a taxi driver (Jaime Orodonez) and his fare hostage. With Silvia in pursuit, the men unwittingly find themselves in the clutches of a coven of witches led by Graciana (Carmen Maura), who are convinced that Jose’s son Sergio (Gabriel Angel Delgado) is ‘the one’ that they’ve received a recent prophecy about.

While his 2010 title The Last Circus was able to straddle the fine line between black comedy and horror more effectively (and with a socio-political statement, to boot), Witching and Bitching was clearly meant to be an amusing trifle. Opening with its standout heist sequence in the Puerta del Sol square in Madrid, Iglesia has a knack for complicated orchestrations grounded by physical reality, something that can’t quite be mimicked in many of the special effects sequences involving the coven of flying witches.

Amusing performances abound, including Hugo Silva (of Almodovar’s I’m So Excited), and a host of other Iglesias favorites, Terele Pavez, Javier Botet, and Carlos Areces (also of Excited, and the lead in Circus) as a drag queen witch. Of course, the mother/daughter witch duo played by the likes of Carmen Maura and Carolina Bang tend to overwhelm everyone else, though the film doesn’t quite give them any leverage other than the ability to be amusing. This is particularly evident in the film’s vague insinuations that witches are a feminist response to the misogynistic traditions of male dominated Christianity, which upon closer inspection may have more problematic ramifications if anyone bothered to give this a closer reading.

Disc Review

Bypassing a Blu-ray package for a dressed down DVD, IFC Midnight didn’t spend much time flirting with extra features, which is hardly a surprise since it avoided a theatrical platform for the film entirely. An amusing trifle for the Halloween season, the underwhelming package is rather surprisingly bereft of any pizzazz. Extra features include three clips, ranging from two to four minutes in length which finds director Iglesias discussing his approach to the film, the cast of characters, and, most interestingly, how he shot that awesome opening sequence in the packed square of Puerta del Sol.

Final Thoughts

Reminiscent of Nicolas Roeg’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Witches, this coven has nothing on the Anjelica Huston headed coven from that 1990 film. Carmen Maura (who headlined Iglesia’s 2000 title Common Wealth) proves to be as game as ever, as does the scene stealing Terele Pavez. But despite its noted cast members (and a rather arresting CGI booby figure that appears late in the film during a sacred ritual), Witching and Bitching is too long to sustain its wispy narrative.

Film: ★★½/☆☆☆☆☆
Disc: ★★½/☆☆☆☆☆

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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