I've had a tumultuous relationship with Alex de la Iglesias. Not to go all hipster, but I saw and loved his early work (Accion Mutante and El Dia de la Bestia). His later stuff, though, was more hit and miss with me. 100 Bullets and The Baby's Room were fantastic, Common Wealth and The Last Circus not so much. But Las Brujas de Zugarramurdi (not using the US title, not sorry) cements our love as everlasting. This is an incredibly well-constructed and very entertaining film.
The credits roll over images of the greatest witches in history, then we dive right into the plot, as what appear to be street performers mastermind a gold-shop robbery. These first twenty minutes or so are just frantic gold themselves, as Christ, Minnie Mouse, Spongebob, a soldier, and the Invisible Man all say, "Screw copyright" and bring out the guns. Oh, and Jesus brings along his young son because...
Freeze frame: how weird is it that Madrid apparently has street performers who portray Jesus? I know New Orleans has the typical silver dudes with beggar cups at their feet, but Jesus carrying a cross is a whole other level.
They escape with a bag full of gold wedding rings and such, but end up at a town named Zugarramurdi on their way to the French border. Said town is alleged to be the birthplace of witchcraft and this is where the horror elements of this horror/action/comedy hybrid take the stage.
Of course, the witches are our baddies (and the gold thieves are our heroes). And we get a rich roster of witches, from super-hottie Eva (Carolina Bang, queen of all names)...
...to frumpier, marriage-weathered housewife witches...
...to other women(?) with wise advice for the young.
The plot's not that complicated, but de la Iglesias keeps the pace brisk. More than anything, this reminded me of 100 Bullets with its rapid-fire scene-switching and action pieces. The energy here definitely feels like a throwback to the director's earlier stuff. Plus it kind of centers around a young boy's relationship with a male family member (a dad, not a grandpa, in this case). Brujas also incorporates a lot of the man/woman compare-and-contrast the director's been doing ever since Julia's travails with her loser husband in Common Wealth. It's notable that the evil ladies are the ones who generally make successful plans; the dudes mostly just stumble into solutions, sometimes literally.
The acting across the board is great. Seriously, you can't point to a weak performance in this and there's tons of chemistry between the individual actors. Even the kid actor is good! And they're all working with a fun script that kind of recalls the better Indiana Jones adventures or, say, Gremlins. It's the same kind of thrill-ride entertainment, only without all those monkey brains.
Look at one more screenshot of Carolina Bang's terrifying beauty and then watch this movie, I implore you.