Director Alex de la Iglesia certainly has an interesting body of work, but this is my first look at any of it. The Day of the Beast is his second feature film, following Accion Mutante (a film that I actually have but haven’t watched), and it’s an incredibly dark, and funny, journey.
When Cura (Alex Angulo), a priest, announces that he has cracked the code revealing the day the anti-christ will be born, he heads to Madrid to try and prevent the coming apocalypse. Along the way, he joins up with Jose Maria (Santiago Segura), a record store clerk with a love of heavy metal music, and Cavan (Armando De Razza), a phony TV psychic.
With the help of Cavan, Cura attempts to pledge his soul to the devil so he can find out the exact place where the anti-christ will be born. What follows is a sinfully funny trip as the trio run, punch, and shoot their way to the final showdown.
Right from the start, with the help of writer Jorge Guerricaechevarria, Iglesia delivers the laughs. When Cura tells another priest about his findings, that priest is instantly squished by a huge, falling cross. So begins Cura’s trip into sin. In order to be accepted by Satan, Cura does everything he can to be bad. With the opening montage, set to some terrific heavy metal music, Cura steals money from a homeless person, tells an accident victim that he should rot in hell before stealing his wallet, and walks off with another mans luggage in front of a hotel. It’s this strange humour that brings up memories of Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive.
While the film has a low budget, it’s not visible onscreen. Everything looks great, and the few effects in the film are typically well done. There is some work that doesn’t stand up to greater scrutiny, but it’s still miles ahead of some work that I’ve seen in the last few years. An impressive feat for a film that was released in 1995. The best set piece happens at Cavan’s apartment. It’s a gorgeous looking building that Cura and Jose Maria manage to mess up as they try to perform a satanic ritual. The sequence ends with the three men climbing out a window for a heart-stopping climb down the building. It’s the kind of tension that will have you biting your fingernails off.
The movie takes a very lighthearted look at a rather serious subject, but that doesn’t become obvious until later in the film. At first, it’s just a group of apparently crazy guys doing some insane things. As the ending comes closer, the deeper ideas of the story start to show themselves, until an ambiguous ending that will leave you discussing the events with the other viewers. That’s the kind of film I really enjoy, something that will leave me scratching my head after.
Even if the ending seems a bit heavy, the journey there is hilarious. Watching Alex Angulo as Cura will have you rolling in the aisles. He seems so innocent and kind, but he’s constantly committing sins to convince Satan that he’s a bad guy. It’s like watching a small child do something bad, you can’t really be mad at them because they don’t know any better. With Santiago Segura as Jose Maria, you can tell that he knows better but just doesn’t care. The two of them are like an evil version of Laurel and Hardy, but the slapstick always leaves them bloody and bruised.
If dark comedy is something you enjoy, The Day of the Beast will be right up your alley. The fact that the story manages to make you think is an added bonus.
Under the marquee – Will