The Day of the Beast starring Alex Angulo, Armando De Razza, Santiago Segura
Directed by Alex de la Iglesia
Distributed by Severin Films
My only familiarity with the work of writer/director Alex de la Iglesia came courtesy of his more recent films; specifically, the absolutely gonzo The Last Circus (2010) and The Oxford Murders (2008), which I thought was a total drag. But his name has been a commodity on the horror scene since the mid-‘90s, when he delivered a string of wildly unconventional genre-leaping films which includes El dia de la Bestia a.k.a. The Day of the Beast (1995).
Blending pitch black humor with horror, de la Iglesia’s film is a bizarre, blasphemous trip through one insane night with a priest, heavy metal music store clerk, and a Geraldo Rivera-type with a paranormal television program. Severin Films has graciously restored the film in 4K for its home video release on disc – the first ever for this title – and I can safely say this will be one of my top ten film discoveries of 2021.
A priest, Angel (Alex Angulo), thinks he has deciphered an ancient text containing information regarding the birth of the Antichrist, which is set to happen on the upcoming Christmas Eve, and he surmises the best way to prevent this event is to commit as much evil as possible in hopes of selling his soul to the Devil, ideally giving him a front row seat to the birth where he plans to murder the unholy infant.
His attempts at being bad are shocking and hilarious but his solo quest gains a new member when he stops at a music shop and meets Jose (Santiago Segura), a metalhead Hessian who offers him a place to stay for the night. Angel’s plan is not without some backing; a local occult TV host, Professor Cavan (Armando de Razza), wrote a book that purports to tell how a person can sell their soul to the Devil. Angel pays Cavan a visit only to learn the man is more of a showman than a true believer… so he and Jose kidnap the professor and force him to assist in the ritual.
This is a film that grabs you right at the start, with Angel starting his journey of misdeeds almost immediately. There’s a quickness to both the editing and dialogue that gives the film a rapid-fire approach; the dialogue, in particular, spitting quick barbs in a manner more akin to something by Howard Hawks. It certainly felt fresh and unique, even for a film made in 1995. De la Iglesia doesn’t shy away from visceral moments. And the film does revel in black-cloaked gallows humor even when people are being killed. It’s a testament to de la Iglesia’s ability to craft an atmosphere of whimsy within such madness. It allows these impactful scenes to be both brutal and uncomfortably amusing.
The diversity between the leading trio alone organically lends itself to laughs. Angel, the priest, is a formerly penitent man. He sets off on a crazy quest with full commitment to evil. He hopes of getting into the most exclusive event in the universe. It requires a lot of Angulo, who more than matches the madness necessary for such a character.
I’ve seen Jose at a hundred different metal shows. Here he’s a character that is instantly relatable, given some level of depth through Santiago Segura’s performance. It vacillates between childlike wonder and extreme apathy. He’s a complex dude. And he loves drugs, something that leads to a palm-sweating scene later in the film. And then there’s de Razza as Cavan. A seemingly legit practitioner who turns out to be more Peter Vincent (the late great Roddy McDowell) than true believer. Each of these three actors plays well off of each other and is excellent on their own.
Severin Films has brought Beast not only to Blu-ray but proper 4K Ultra HD as well. And though this isn’t a demo disc there are minor improvements afforded by the increased resolution. The 2160p 1.85:1 image never belies its low-budget roots but it was shot on 35mm. And the 4K presentation wrings every last bit of detail and color out of that negative as possible. Severin’s transfer track record has long been a mixed bag. But this is not only one of the best films they’ve put out this year. It’s also one of the best examples of what they can do in Ultra HD. Hopefully a promising sign of things to come. A few of the third act effects look shoddy because they were done optically. But that’s all just charming eye candy to me. The overall picture is stable and often very attractive.
On the audio front, there are a couple of Spanish DTS-HD MA tracks in 2.0 and 5.1. Plus an English dub in DTS-HD MA 2.0, with the multi-channel Spanish track the clear winner. Surrounds are used sparingly but effectively when needed and dialogue is decipherable and properly balanced alongside the sound effects. This isn’t a highly active track but what is heard sounds faithfully reproduced. Subtitles are available in English.
Note, the bonus features are found only on the included Blu-ray disc. The 4K disc itself contains no supplements.
- NEW 4K RESTORATION OF THE FILM
- Heirs Of The Beast – Feature Length Documentary by Diego López and David Pizarro on the Making and Cultural Impact of DAY OF THE BEAST
- Antichrist Superstar – Interview with Director Alex De La Iglesia
- The Man Who Saved the World – Interview with Actor Armando De Razza
- Beauty and the Beast – Interview with Actress Maria Grazia Cucinotta
- Shooting The Beast – Interview with Director Of Photography Flavio Martínez Labiano
- Mirindas Asesinas – 1990 Short Film by Alex De La Iglesia
This is a strong debut for Severin Films’ 4K endeavors, both as a title and as a showing of the kind of a/v quality we can (hopefully) expect to see in future releases. A must buy for fans of darkly comedic horror.