After learning of the impending birth of the antichrist and the apocalypse, a Catholic priest befriends a black metal fanatic and a TV famous occultist to join him on a path of sin and destruction across Madrid to summon the devil and face him to save the world.
“I must sell my soul to the devil…”
While most American films portray the apocalpyse with either over-the-top explosions or the planet earth shattering. El Día De La Bestia, or The Day of The Beast, presents a more grounded but greatly entertaining take on the apocalypse through hillarious horror and black humor. Directed by Álex de la Iglesia (30 Coins, The Last Circus), my favorite director, this film is a cult-classic that more Spanish-language horror fans must see.
Instead of the usual scene-by-scene breakdown, I want to break down my favorite themes and characteristics of the film.
The biggest and best aspect of the film is the film’s portrayal of religion and its role in modern society. Even though the entire film is set in Madrid, I enjoyed the comedy and understood its many underlying messages about Christianity.
One of my favorite scenes shows Father Angel Berriartua, played by Álex Angulo, in the typical garb of a Catholic priest. However, he doesn’t quote the bible or perform acts of charity. He knocks over trash, steals a tourist’s luggage, pushes people, and commits other smal acts of crime. The rest of the film follows as Father Angel continues to perform more desperate and deadly “acts of sin” in order to summon the devil and find the anti-christ before Christmas day. Needless to say, it was a thrill to see a Catholic priest carry a pump-action shot gun and perform a satanic ritual. The best part of this is when Father Angel corners a young woman named Mina, played by Nathalie Seseña. He asks if she is a real virgin without skipping a beat and with a too-eager smile on his face. This left me breathless in laughter.
Father Angel’s sins to save the world reminded that while of the duality of religion in today’s world. While parts of it may seem antiquated and barbaric, there are also pieces of if that offer genuine care and compassion.
Metal and Satanism have gone hand-in-hand in film and TV since the Satanic Panic of the 80s and 90s. Alex De La Iglesia took this concept and ripped its guts out to show metalheads as heroes. Early in the film, Father Angel enters a metal record store owned by Jose Maria, played by Santiago Segura to buy the most hardcore metal album and find the satanic lyrics to help bring out the devil.
Jose Maria embodies the typical “satanic” metal head stereotype: unkempt, vulgar, a drug-addict, a grown man living with his mom. But it is this kind of human being who will help stop the real devil from destroying the earth. He aids our hero in deciphering the esoteric clues of the prophecy and saving his life on mutiple occasions. By the end of the film, we see him as a fully fleshed out character who metalheads like me can relate to. Of course he kills several people but I’m not here to judge.
The only drawback of this masterpiece is its length and that its a slowburner. Those used to fast-paced action or jumpscare horror may not enjoy this film. Even the climax where Father Angel faces the devil is more akin to a western-style stand-off than a battle. But the slow pace allows for the tension and dread for Father Angel to seep in. It also gives us a chance to notice the well-made effects (for the time) and the passion the director had put in.
I highly reccomend this movie to any fan of cult-horror and for those who wish to exand their palate to include European films. I can’t think of a better way to start hispanic heritage month and to enter the Halloween season.