In this gleefully absurd horror comedy co-written and directed by Spanish filmmaker Álex de la Iglesia, Basque priest Angel (Álex Angulo) is on a mission to commit as much sin as possible. His reasoning? He thinks the Antichrist will be born at midnight on Christmas Eve, and if he can gain Satan’s trust through sin he can get into the Antichrist’s birth ceremony and kill it. He recruits Jose Maria (Santiago Segura), a tattooed heavy metal afficionado and record store clerk. Together they persuade Professor Cavan (Armando De Razza), the slick but assholish host of popcorn-occult TV show “The Dark Zone” to join the supernatural Three Amigos and prevent the apocalypse.
Day of the Beast has an infectiously jolly sense of the ridiculous. As the credits unfold we see Angel stealing the coins from a street beggar, and whisper “I hope you rot in hell” to a car crash victim, to whom he was supposed to give the last rites, right before he makes off with the dying man’s wallet. In what is surely an instance of audience wish fulfilment he next pushes a mime off his pedestal and walks away as the Marcel Marceau mofo topples into the stairwell of a subway station. The movie is also populated with utterly ridiculous characters like Jose Maria’s grandfather who wanders around the house stoned and naked. Maria Grazia Cucinotta plays Cavan’s girlfriend Susana with obvious gusto, with one of her highlights being a completely silly chase sequence where she and Jose Maria run back and forth through Cavan’s apartment. The whole thing wraps up with Satan himself appearing on a rooftop as a weird mutant bipedal goat, foregrounded against vibrant surrealistic colours in a “how the hell did they do that before CGI” moment.
De la Iglesia is guided by a wild mix of influences from H.P. Lovecraft (the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game) to Taxi Driver to Don Quixote that are mixed up into a politically incorrect stew. A warped sense of humour permeates the whole piece, particularly memorable being scenes of the gun-toting old priest as cinema’s unlikeliest action hero. One of my favourite throwaway moments has Cavan bitching at Jose Maria for cutting a pentagram into his wood floor when he could have simply drawn it instead. Day of the Beast showcases a unique ability to blend genres, from comedy to downright dark horror. In a 2017 interview for Anthem Magazine, de la Iglesia said “Everything is connected and linked. The world is a big paella. A horror moment always has a little dose of humor. That’s why it works. You need to have it.” An utterly unique cinematic experience, Day of the Beast swept the Goya awards, nabbing Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay. The transfer on Severin’s blu ray disc is an absolute stunner, worth selling your soul for. Textures, blacks, and colours are all beautifully rendered and the picture is resplendent with detail and texture. The film was restored in 4K from the original negative, and it shows. I’m lucky that a presentation this good was my first experience of Day of the Beast.
Heirs Of The Beast: Feature Length Documentary by Diego López and David Pizarro on the Making and Cultural Impact of Day of the Beast (80 mins) — This documentary covers the roots of the ‘90s explosion in Spanish fantasy/horror before digging into the development and shooting of Day of the Beast. A range of Spanish directors are interviewed, including Nacho Cerda, Paco Plaza, and Enrique Urbizu, plus many of the cast members of the film. It is a well produced and thoughtful complement to Day of the Beast.
Antichrist Superstar – Interview with Director Alex De La Iglesia (28 mins) — The director chats about the influences on the movie, how the cast came together, and how it was shot. With much behind the scenes stories and footage, this short feature gives some great insight into the production.
The Man Who Saved the World – Interview with Actor Armando De Razza (20 mins) — The actor who plays phony TV psychic Cavan reviews how he got involved in the project and relays tales of the shoot. Great stuff.
Beauty and the Beast – Interview with Actress Maria Grazia Cucinotta (17 mins) — A warm, funny, and informative recollection of making the movie and its impact on Cucinotta’s career.
Shooting The Beast – Interview with Director Of Photography Flavio Martínez Labiano (2 mins) — The only disposable extra, this is far too short. What is there is good, but at two minutes this skims lightly across the surface of what could be a long and fascinating conversation. Mirindas Asesinas – 1990 Short Film by Alex De La Iglesia Trailers (12 mins) — A wonderful little extra, this is the short film that is referred to in the beginning of the Heirs of the Beast documentary.
Day of the Beast handily takes the crown as one of the most vivacious, inventive, and oddly absurd horror comedies ever made, and Severin’s blu ray edition does the film justice. For all those plugged into weird cinema, this disc is a must have.