The Day of the Beast

(Álex de la Iglesia, Spain/Italy, 1995)

BY LAURA KERN | December 30, 2023

A rare case of a film striking the perfect horror-comedy balance, The Day of the Beast is also an extremely rare example of a buddy flick found within genre cinema. Resembling a joke setup, the plot of Álex de la Iglesia’s second feature revolves around a Basque Catholic priest/theology professor, a metalhead record-shop worker, and a cheesy Italian occultist who form an unlikely team to save the world from destruction.

In the course of his Apocalypse studies, the priest, Ángel Berriartúa (Álex Angulo), uncovers a hidden equation in the Bible predicting the birth of the Antichrist in Spain’s capital at midnight on Christmas, so he must sin like crazy to attract the Devil’s attention in order to prevent this. Watching a holy man do naughty, mostly silly shit—stealing a dying bum’s money, telling another dying man to go to hell, pushing a street mime—is irresistible, making for an opening act of pure disturbed comedy gold.

The Madrid that Ángel travels to is a violent, burning mess already well on its way toward doomsday. Shortly after his arrival, he crosses paths with José María (Iglesia regular Santiago Segura), the record-store clerk, who directs him to a boarding house run by his mom (Terele Pávez, another fixture in Iglesia’s films)—a hilariously mean-ass bitch—who lives in the place alongside his granddad, always naked and totally out of it, and a virginal woman José María pines for (Nathalie Seseña). Ángel becomes fixated on the cheeseball Italian host of the TV program The Dark Zone, Professor Cavan (Armando De Razza), and after stealing a copy of his book, decides that his knowledge of satanic rituals holds the key to the success of their mission. Ángel and José María track Cavan down, and while the raggedy yet endearing trio they form is certainly not the not the one you’d choose for the task of saving humankind, it’s certainly fun watching them try.

As the dudes set out on their wild adventure, the film loses a little of its glorious initial steam, but because Iglesia is a true original, his second feature after the 1993 sci-fi dark comedy Mutant Action still maintains its bold freshness, finding its place as a go-to holiday horror movie. The Day of the Beast also served as a key stepping stone for Iglesia, earning him the Goya Award for Best Director—just one of six wins for the film. Its success enabled him, along with Alejandro Amenábar, to usher in a new era of appreciation for genre movies in Spain. 🩸


is a writer, editor, and horror programmer based in New York. She is the editor of Bloodvine and her writing has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Film Comment, and Rolling Stone.

X: @killerkern

How to see The Day of the Beast

The film is also available on DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K Ultra HD from Severin Films.
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