Spanish screenwriter/director Carlota Pereda adapts his 2018 short film to expand on the complex effects of bullying against a horror backdrop. In porcine, it’s not just bullies and the bullied who deal with the emotional fallout and ramifications of bullying. It reverberates through a small town, heightened by the arrival of a serial killer, presenting an immersive, psychological character study.
Sarah (Laura Galan) spends most of her summer working in her family’s butcher shop, hiding from the scorching sun and mean peers who relentlessly tease her about her weight. After a clique of mean and mean girls go on a trip, Sara sneaks into the town pool for an afternoon swim, briefly encountering a stranger there before the girls return to viciously target her. one more time. Sara is forced to walk home in her only bathing suit, and multiple harrowing encounters along the way make her the only person to know a killer is on the loose. But as a constant target of abuse, Sara is morally conflicted about what to do about it.
Pereda frames everything through Sara’s perspective and puts the viewer in their place. porcine paints a clear and heartbreaking picture of the bullying Sara experiences from her classmates, both online and in person. Yet he spends a lot of time considering how it starts at home with an overbearing mother (30 piecess‘ carmen machi). Pereda examines the psychological and emotional toll all of this takes on Sara, how it shaped her withdrawn and quiet personality, and why it causes questionable action or inaction on Sara’s part once the town realizes that people disappeared. More intriguingly, Pereda explores how this creates a fascination in Sara with the killer.
Because we’re so immersed in Sara’s story and arc, the horror elements are relegated to the background for periods. Shocking details that Sara completely misses during moments of maximum distress or eyes closed, and more aggressive moments of terror occur throughout. But it takes a while for the killer’s path to completely converge with Sara’s. Once that’s done, Pereda lets the blood flow and makes the viewer complicit in the moral doubt of Sara’s fate.
Galán’s layered vulnerability keeps you invested in porcine all along; Sara’s twisted coming-of-age story puts her in the emotional rut even though the most thrilling horror story takes place off-screen for the most part. This makes for a less suspenseful but more satisfying dramatic arc. At least according to which component of Sara’s journey resonates the most; Redemption, discovery or retribution? Pereda makes a strong case for all of this, lending unpredictability to the finale.
porcine gives viewers plenty to chew on in this intimate morality tale carried by Galán’s haunting performance. Every bit of Sara’s helplessness, fear, anguish, rage, and even attraction is tangible. Pereda casts an unwavering eye on Sara, making it even more personal through aspect ratio and restraint in specific types of violence. This restraint makes porcine more adjacent horror than outright horror, but its impact is still keenly felt.