Aki Vs. Evil: Witching & Bitching (Las brujas de Zugarramurdi)

This is one of those cases, where the movie is originally in Spanish and the DVD version I have is the German release, with optional Dutch subtitles. I don’t speak any of these languages, but I do know enough of each language that I can get by on context clues. I still do find it funny that a cell phone is ‘Handy’ in German.

Spoilers. Well, I don’t think I’m giving away anything important, but I’m not going to try to avoid them either, so this is a fair warning.

Two men rob a , with one of them having their young son tag along. After the robbery goes bad, they kidnap a couple of people to take as hostages and drive them to France. The literal translation of the Spanish title would something along the lines of The Witches of Zugarramurdi and the titular Zugarramurdi is a small village close to the French border, so you can guess where they end up and what happens to them.

The opening titles of the movie include a lot of pictures of famous women, such as Merkel, Thatcher and a bunch of actors. What’s the implication here? Are they suppposed to be witches? It’s a pretty strong political statement to put them on the same list of people as Myra Hindley, who killed five kids with her boyfriend in the early 60s. On the other hand, Thatcher’s policies have definitely caused more damage than those five deaths, even if it’s hard to compare the acts of the two. Frida Kahlo is also there, but as I understand it, she actually did study the occult at least as a source of inspiration. We also get Mata Hari, Mother Shiption Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Bette Davis, Eva Braun and Leni Riefenstahl. An eclectic group to say the least. Some sources also listed Mary, Queen of the Scots, but she isn’t listed in the image credits at the end of the movie (public domain, perhaps).

Zugarramurdi is quite a small place (only 225 people according to Wikipedia), but apparently has a reputation as a place where witches dwell. I doubt anything that happens in the movie is based on these legends in any way, except maybe some weird details, as these old legends of witches from the medieval period always seem to have plenty of outrageous claims, often based on sexual frustration of the clergymen writing them.

This sexualization manifests itself in quite a weird way in the movie. The two robbers are both very infatuated with the youngest of the witches and seem to pay a lot of attention to her breasts even when tied up and being played with as toys. She also has a maniacal look, which is part seductive and part sadistic. She seems to relish both the attention the two men give her, but also the dissecting of her victims. The movie even attempts to rehabilitate her, making her the girlfriend of one of the men by the end of the movie.

The early part of the movie is more based on action comedy than horror comedy tropes, except that there’s a lot of child endangerment. The kid seems to be able to handle himself, going as far as shooting at police on behalf of his father, but that does still seem kind of extreme and unnecessary for a comedy film, especially as it doesn’t really transgress onto anything interesting. It’s just somewhat hard to enjoy an otherwise carefree romp about murderous witches, when there’s a child involved.

Not that the movie is otherwise very thoughtout. Our heroes do kidnap two men, shoot pursuing police with a shotgun in the middle of a city and the cops shoot back. How is that allowed for our “good” guys”? There’s plenty of misogyny as well. Almost every female character (besides the extras) is a witch and most of the men are more or less victims of witches. Even the mother of the aforementioned child becomes a witch later on in the movie. The director was between marriages at this point, so perhaps he should have talked about his feelings with someone else. His future wife? The aforementioned rehabilitated witch. No, really. (Well, the actor, but still.)

The best part of the film is how the actors seem to enjoy themselves. The movie in itself is kind of straightforward and doesn’t have a very interesting plot. Things just happen. Still, the women playing the witches are having fun, so I’m having fun. Obviously, this wouldn’t work in every film, but it does work in this kind of a comedy, which you can’t take seriously anyhow.

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