The Day of the Beast – 1995 (Italy/Spain)
Writer – Alex de la Iglesia and Jorge Guerricaechevarria
Director – Alex de la Iglesia
Runtime – 103 minutes
Greetings folks and once again welcome to my dusty little corner of Drunkinagraveyard. This entry sees me returning, once again, to subtitle territory, yes…foreign cinema. And to another entry in the diverse and rapidly expanding celluloid universe of dark humor maestro and cult director Alex de la Iglesia.
El Dia De La Bestia, original title, is (his second) a full length feature that follows the relative success of Acci’on Mutant (1993) and features much the same brand of pitch (black) humor, nods to social political satire and a similar pace steeped in scenarios that careen out of control that’s Alex is fast becoming notorious for.
I’ll attempt to summerize The Day of the Beasts’ story (leaving out as many spoilers as possible). After studying the Apocalypse of St John for twenty-five years a theology professor, Cura (portrayed brilliantly by Alex Angulo), believes he has discovered a hidden meaning behind its blatantly obvious warnings. Cura has managed to summerize the entirety of the texts into a complex but decipherable cryptogram. The answer is, he believes, a date, an important date, one that signifies the beginning of the end of the world. More importantly that same exact 24 hour period is present day. Fear not however, as he has a plan to combat the diabolical scheming that has taken near a millenia to come to fruition. But where to start? Madrid is a huge place. Seriously though, how hard can it be to conjure the Dark Lord, especially when his influence appears to seep from every scabborous pustule and sewerage blockened pore that modern day society boasts.
The films first scene sees Cura quietly confide in a fellow member of the cloth. His conclusions meet abject disbelief, then after a few moments of consideration finally understanding. Cura it seems has a companion to help in his undertaking for a few moments only. He is suddenly thwarted by the powers that be, you could say abrupt orders delivered from his immediate boss, in the form of an ‘act of God’ himself. Cura however, is not to be deterred so strong is his conviction that he soon finds himself in the company of unlikely co conspirators and a string of highly improbable scenarios that test his sanity, body and faith to its very limits.
Throughout The Day of the Beast fans of Iglesia’s work will see a few faces they might find familiar. Chief among them Terele Pa’vez (RIP) aka Terresa Marta Ruiz Penella who also featured prominently in Witching and Bitching (a review of which is also featured on this very site by yours truly), Commonwealth, The Last Circus and 800 Bullets. In this film she portrays Rosario, a ‘hard bitch’ (excuse the language but upon witnessing the film you’ll understand. I don’t believe I’ve witnessed another movie in which a mother elbows her son in the face), an innkeeper and a parent who has no patience for BS, her sons backtalk, or society’s ills.
Santiago Segura (who also boasts an impressive IMDB showing) plays her offspring, Jose Maria. Jose works in a record store, is obsessed with heavy metal and plays a guide to the city, it’s landmarks and is an unquestioning companion to Cura, his quest and wherever it may take him. The interaction between these two characters is sublime, a strange pairing to be sure but oddly a perfect fit. Jose is excited to be of assistance to the novelty that Cura serves and the story he ‘weaves’. As the movie wears on however the unlikely pair develop a bond, as Curas predictions steer away from mete hyperbole (sorry, a smidgen of a spolier there!) the bond becomes tangible with both having the understanding there’s more at stake than just saving their own skin.
Cura’s ‘novelty’ lies in.the fact that he must first embrace the path of wickedness and sin. For if he is to be successful in his endeavours he believes it absolutely nessisary to invoke that which he has protected his soul from since his incorporation into the cloth. When Cura displays these actions, including stealing, acts of ill will, terrorism, kidnapping and violence all against his better nature (and teachings) the result is cinematic gold, easily moments among the films finest. These parts of the film impart a lasting impression leaving the viewer wide eyed and transfixed in a blossoming state of intrigue as to where else the films course might take them. The film also boasts several madcap chase scenes (much like in Witching snd Bitching). One has Cura running for his life whilst his pursuer blasts away at his shadow with a shotgun, the looks on Curas face during this and many other memerable scenes are a testiment to the actors stellar abilities and only raise the bar on the films overall allure.
The film also explores sensationalism with the introduction of Cavan (a dead ringer for Jean Reno in certain instances). Cavan is a famous occult investigator/clairvoyant and soothsayer, in other words a man of many talents, who embraces his position (on national television) and audience with love. Although he also displays stunning bluntness (in many of his predictions) without pandering to his audiences desires. Dragged into the storyline he plays an integral part in its development, the fulfillment of Curas quest, much to his initial chagrin, and the infectious nature and direction of the storys narrative.
Alex’s expert direction, execution and utilization of humor in its darkest guise is rarely seen so fluidly, often attempted (with disastrous results) but hardly ever reaching the level witnessed here leaving no doubt why The Day of the Beast boasts the cult following that it does.
Naturally any film with the inclusion of religion and music, in this case hard rock, may have to decide whether to comment on how the two interact (…Demonic music. Will it help?) The Day of the Beast does so tastefully in several instances, one is a nod to controversy covered gleefully by ignorant media outlets in the genres murky past (playing vinyl backwards to hear ‘dark’ messages – Judas Priest July/16/1990 court appearance in regarda to suicide brought on by possible Satanic promptings). An interaction between Jose, Professor Cavan and Cura even helps point out the differences between genres for all those still confused.
There are a myriad of instances to mention from watching El Dia De La Bestia to entice a viewing (or a further exploration of Iglesias filmography) though in order to keep this short (as if, I tend to get carried away with words when I’m excited!) I’ll stray from further musings and place a cork in the preverbial bottle with some final words on the film.
It’s damn good. There I’ve said it (I suppose I could’ve stated this opinion earlier and saved you, the reader, some eye strain, but I’m a dick and there’s that!), and deserved of its exalted status in the foreign (cult) film category. It’s just a pity it’s so damn hard to procure. Hit me up if you need the website to contact.
Needless to mention I’ll gladly argue it’s merit to all those who believe otherwise.
Your slave to visual bizarre, comical in a slanted kind of a way and highly addictive if you don’t mind reading the occasional subtitle or three,
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