Imagine a mix of Luis Buñuel’s tongue-in-cheek blasphemy, Dario Argento’s stylish mayhem and schlockmeister Jess Franco’s what-the-hell inventiveness, and you’ll have some idea of the tone and texture of Spanish writer-director Alex de la Iglesia’s Day of the Beast.
The film’s hero is a little Milquetoast of a priest (Alex Angulo) who is convinced that he has deciphered the Book of Revelations and that the Antichrist is going to be born somewhere in Madrid on Christmas Day. In order to thwart this inevitability, he decides he must get in touch with the devil, and in order to do that he must sin – which, since he’s an unworldly type, means shoplifting, scraping the sides of parked cars with his keys and various other misdemeanors.
When this fails to evoke the Dark One, he takes desperate measures and goes to a record store looking for heavy metal albums. There he’s befriended by a spaced-out headbanger named Jose Maria (Santiago Segura) who becomes his partner in his quest to foil the forces of evil – one of the charms of the film is that it’s always left as a possibility that all the supernatural aspects of the film exist only in the characters’ minds.
The priest and Jose Maria decide to kidnap a bogus TV psychic who calls himself Professor Cravan, and who they believe must know the proper protocol for raising Satan. At first reluctant, Cravan finds himself drawn into the madness, going along against his better instincts, much like the viewer.
Day of the Beast is a truly unique film, grotesque and funny, edgy and sweet all at the same time. It’s got "cult film" written all over it, but for once, deservedly so.
Richard C. Walls writes about the arts for the Metro Times. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.