It has been quite a while Malevolent Dark experienced the pleasure of Spanish horror. Tombs of the Blind Dead (1972) proved to be a solid film for the time, but let’s just say things have evolved a bit since the 70’s. The Day of the Beast (1995), directed by Alex de la Iglesia provides a prime example of this evolution. The Day of the Beast offers a black comedy gem that possibly has much more in common with a a Guy Ritchie film than the Exorcist (1973).
Iglesia takes a subtle approach to comedy in this film. God spare us from another Shaun of the Dead (2004) or Army of Darkness (1992).
Armageddon Quick Start Guide
Alex de la Iglesia launches into action with a silly premise. The end of the world is nigh and the Antichrist’s birth is coming at midnight at 12:00AM on Christmas Day. One man, a theology professor and named Angel (Álex Angulo) recently decoded numerology in the ancient texts that detail the coming events. He intends to usher in the age of the Antichrist by selling his soul to the Devil as a catalyst for the Antichrist. To complete his mission successfully, he must do what he has sworn against. He must commit as much evil as possible.
Upon summoning the Antichrist, Angel will save the God fearing world by taking his one shot to kill the Antichrist before he reigns on Earth.
Thus begins a ridiculous romp through the streets of Madrid to complete the unholy task. Along the way, Angel employs the help of self-professed heavy-metal addict and amateur Satanist José María (Santiago Segura). Segura is immediately recognizable as Rush, the groveling vampire lackey in Blade 2 (2002). Angel and José also team up with T.V. occult personality named Professor Cavan (Armando de Razza). Professor Cavan holds the secrets on how to complete the ceremonies required to raise the Antichrist, or so he says.
Horror Comedy – Fantastic When It Works
Over the many decades of horror films, many have tried to nail the magic formula of horror comedy. Certainly, The Day of the Beast is not the only film to manage that task successfully. However, Alex de la Iglesia does perfectly demonstrate one of our favorite formulas. Iglesia creates a character driven comedic flow. Much like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998), the characters are overwhelming with ridiculous personality. Rather than carefully placing gags and praying for them to land, Iglesias sits back and let the humor flow through human interaction.
The social dynamics of this film shine when all three protagonists find themselves in Professor Cavan’s apartment for the first time. The bumbling trio deals with the Cavan’s confronting the fact that he’s a fraud. José incompetently cobbles together a Satanic ceremony using wonder bread, LSD and the blood of a maiden acquired via the hilariously unfortunate death of José’s mother. José will later lament these events by uttering the word “heavy”. If that’s not enough, they roll a blond bombshell down a flight of stairs for grins.
Oddly, despite several funny interactions, the film is not knee slapping hilarious. Rather, the comedy adds just enough spice to make this Satanic adventure worth while. It’s like your favorite Christmas movie, Die Hard (1988) with a sprinkle of virgins blood, the Goat of Mendes and a heavy supply of psychotropics. Unfortunately, Iglesia squanders an opportunity to really cut loose when his leads consume enough LSD to land an elephant on Mars. Que Será, Será.
As mentioned before, Iglesia launches right into the action when Angel confides in a priest to start the film. Upon revealing to the priest his plan to kill the Antichrist, a giant stone cross topples over, crushing the priest. From there, From there, Igelsia does a pretty good job developing his chess pieces one at a time before eventually selling his soul to Satan.
Things begin to unravel a bit as the movie progresses. Iglesia seems to lose his his way as he bumbles through the second half, as if he only had a 60 minute worth of ideas, but had to fill 104 minutes worth of film. Fortunately, his characters are able to carry the film just barely well enough despite the meandering. The entire enterprise would have likely benefitted greatly from a 15 minute haircut.
Fit and finish
Filmed in 1995 for the sum of $1.5M dollars, we can safely call The Day of the Beast a low budget affair. A character driven affair hold a much higher chance of success in these circumstances. Alex de la Iglesia does very well. Visually, his film looks rather good. The cinematography by Flavio Martinez Labiano oscillates between mildly interesting to impressive.
The special effects languish a bit, but Iglesia’s film doesn’t really require them to be effective. The depictions of Satan looks ridiculous at best. Other practical effects like when Angel gets his ear blown off via shotgun show very well.
In an adjective not often fit for a serious horror blog, we found The Day of the Beast delightful. Alex de la Iglesia directs a fun and original film that entertains throughout. While we did enjoy it, it’s not perfect. At various points it seems to trip on its own shoelaces. However, Igelsia never allows it to fall down completely.
Throughout this review, we recklessly threw out some pretty bold comparisons (Die Hard, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels). To be clear, this films shares the fighting spirit of those films, but don’t plan on bumping Die Hard from your annual Christmas movie list. Still, The Day of the Beast is very much worth seeing. It’s a quirky and fun little adventure with an ending fit for the good deeds of its heroes. Malevolent Dark gives it a solid recommendation.
The Day of the Beast (1995) - Good Times and Armageddon - Malevolent Dark
Director: Alex de la Iglesia
Date Created: 1995-01-01 00:00