Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 43 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Strong Brutal Violence, Language, Drug Use and Brief Nudity
(Spanish with English subtitles)
Directed by: Alex De La Iglesia
Written by: Alex De La Iglesia, Jorge Guerricaechevarria
Starring: Alex Angulo, Santiago Segura, Armando De Razza
DAY OF THE BEAST is a horror film that features elements of dark humor, but never fully becomes a full-blown comedy. It really is a shame that the only way to currently see this film is on VHS or imported DVDs (which is how I saw it), because this is a movie that truly deserves a proper release (hopefully Scream Factory or Anchor Bay will pick it up soon). One wouldn’t automatically come to satanic rituals and the possible birth of the antichrist when they think of a fun horror flick, but DAY OF THE BEAST is a blast and highly original.
We begin with Father Angel confessing to his superior that he will commit sins to make a pact with the Devil. He’s cracked a code, hidden in the bible, that reveals the date when the Antichrist will be born and that it will happen somewhere in Madrid. There’s only a short matter of time before Satan’s son arrives on the Earth and Angel intends to sell his soul to Lucifer in order to kill the Antichrist. This priest does all he can to do evil with every annoying petty sin he can think of (not blessing a dying man, keying a car, stealing from a hobo). In the process, Angel comes across an underground record shop and befriends the owner, Jose, a greasy long-haired metalhead. Joining forces, the two kidnap an occult TV show host in order to sell Angel’s soul to the devil and find out where the location of the Antichrist’s birth. This leads the trio on a rollicking demonic adventure to save the world from total destruction.
Alex De La Iglesia demonstrates a flair for making what could have been a dark horrifying film or a cheesy B-flick into a piece of entertainment that successfully straddles the line between horror flick and hilarious dark comedy. In any other hands, this movie could have easily failed, but Iglesia somehow makes all these dark and evil elements into something that is kind of taken lightly in tone. Yes, there is a satanic ritual (pentagram carved on the floor and all) and there is a rather cool looking demon in the final third, but it’s all taken in good stride. Even a scene involving the gunning down of a nativity recreation is something that makes for a solid laugh in the background. This movie doesn’t focus on being scary and depraved, it’s just a whole lot of wicked enjoyment.
The performances put in by the three leads are great. I loved the characters! Jose has made his way up to being one of my all-time favorite sidekicks in horror movie history. He’s a guy who looks scary on the outside, but has a genuinely good heart and wants to do anything he can to help Angel on his quest. Every single time he’s confronted with something awful or scary, Jose just responds with “heavy” and this winds up becoming funnier as the situations get progressively more dangerous and deadly.
The comedy in the film is hysterical too. One of the best sequences features Angel being confronted with the task of retrieving some blood from a virgin, in order to complete a dark ceremony. This entire set of scenes ramps up in tension and absolute hilarity. The effects themselves are pretty damned spiffy, even some CGI involving a goat standing upright. You never really know where the story will head next and this element keeps you on your toes.
If I have any complaints with DAY OF THE BEAST, it’s a minor one in regards to part of the final 20 minutes. It felt like the showdown between certain characters and a beast of lore should have been more grand. In this sense, it’s just a tiny anti-climatic, but the entire film is still well worth checking out. I did love where the story concluded though. This truly is one of the best horror movies that’s relatively unheard of by most and really needs to get more exposure in the USA. Hopefully, someone will remedy this problem soon. DAY OF THE BEAST is awesome, plain and simple. Blasphemy has never been this much fun!