‘Cerdita’ (2022), review: It is a binge of good national horror cinema that mixes the sleaze of ‘Delicatessen’ with the offal of ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’

Sara looks at life from the butcher shop of her parents while enduring the insults, bullying and daily harassment. She dreams of being like those who persecute her, trapped in a gray life from which she would need a prince charming to escape, she masturbates watching porn, eats buns to calm anxiety and he makes rash decisions that can change his life. Sara is one of the most stark, sad, full of conflict and broken characters in modern Spanish cinema, although You may know her better by the name her classmates give her: Little Pig.

girly things

As much as the cinema has tried to show bullying realistically, it has never quite succeeded. Sometimes they brake too much and change the focus incorrectly (‘A small world’, ‘cowards’) and others is a simple complement of the protagonists that is treated as a way of overcoming instead of as a drama. Few are those that show it as such: a scourge that already was forty years ago (when it was called “kid stuff” or “it just doesn’t fit”) and it still is now, only with the Machiavellian and insistent addition of social networks. It doesn’t make you stronger, it doesn’t make you brave, it doesn’t serve any purpose other than to have a childhood that no one should have. And ‘Cerdita’ understands it from start to finishwithout ever betraying his own spirit or Sara’s.

This Spanish-style slasher treats the genre with respect, but also with a desire for innovation: In a world without absolute whites or blacks, even the victims and the murderers belong to the gray scale universe. As much as we have a great time with a good machete blow from Jason or with a rebirth of Michael Myerswe know that in real life there is no longer that absolute evil: in the case of ‘Cerdita’ it has motivation, a desire for justice and, why not highlight it, consent, in a playful film with morals.

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The film wouldn’t be so darn good if it weren’t for its magnificent setting, which he is not afraid to bet on rural oppression represented by Villanueva de la Vera. This Extremaduran town seems to have been created expressly for ‘Cerdita’: a swimming pool under a bridge, a Civil Guard barracks under the phrase “Todo por la patria”, the festivals, the forests, the cars from thirty years ago, the family butcher shop, the gossipy neighbors… This same story it only makes sense in such an oppressive and traditional place which, when the light of summer is glimpsed through the frames, almost seems like the obverse of the new Spanish rural cinema. But here there is neither ‘The Innocence’nor ‘Dryers’, nor ‘Alcarràs’ let it go: when the knives appear, the last one to hide is left with no room to run.

Spanish-style murders

The slasher has always had bad luck in our modern cinemawell because the idea was frankly crazy (‘Tuno negro’, ‘The nun’) or because we tried, without much success, to copy the Yankee sajarajas, those who knife in hand besiege university fraternities, baseball games and teenage camps. And in Spain, without having that iconography, we always feel a bit embarrassed and shy when entering the genre.

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Luckily, ‘Cerdita’ decides to start from scratch, without owing anything to anyone. Pure rural murder between chorizos and blood sausages, dinners with red wine and television news, Seat Terras and shotguns. And if you think that due to the fact that it is a film that delves fully into the morality of the characters and wonders if we would not all have a bit of victim and executioner, depending on the situation, there would be no offal, think again, because Carlota Pereda has taken the hemoglobin out for a walk.

Don’t think wrong: ‘Little pig’ is not a bloodbathbut she does have enough to create with Sara an image as iconic as Leticia Dolera dressed as a bride in ‘[REC] 3’ or the brother of Veronica singing the catchphrase of “Centella”, without disdaining his good amputations, stabbings and dismemberments. This might not be the slasher you’re expecting, but it’s the one you need, even if you don’t like the genre!

final binge

And it is that ‘Cerdita’ understands the genre in a very different way than we are used to: it is neither playful nor terrifying (although he has parts of both), but a dramatic device for making a character study so overwhelmed by his own life that, when he has to take charge of it, he can’t even react with words. It is logical that in its third act the film does not finish exploding completelybut although she never betrays herself, and Sara’s actions make perfect sense with the rest of the film, it is inevitable to miss a couple of moments of general applause in the cinema.

No matter: the path that the film leaves us is so exciting that a small lack of focus in its final minutes is forgiven. Carlota Pereda’s direction, which creates a tone that is as sordid as it is natural and as familiar as it is strange, confirms the director, who is already preparing the adaptation of another of her short films, ‘Las blondes’, as one of the rising talents to take into account today… and not just from genre films or homelands. He has everything to get very high.

I have not the slightest idea how ‘Cerdita’ has been able to sneak into a festival as -sometimes- corseted as that of Saint Sebastianthat usually dribble comedies, horror movies or science fiction, but it has been a great pleasure that this film, halfway between the most delirious Sitges and the most costumbrista Zinemaldia, has found a place in both places. And it is that it fascinates wherever it goes: ‘Cerdita’ is one of the best films of the year on its own merits, regardless of who it weighs.

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