The Day of the Beast (Alex de la Iglesia, 1995)

Drafthouse Films Logo“If Mel Brooks had directed ‘The Omen’, it may have come out like this.”  Ron Wells, FILM THREAT

Father Ángel Berriartúa (Álex Angulo) has discovered that the Antichrist will soon be born on Christmas Eve, but doesn’t know where.  To meet the Devil himself and find out, Berriartúa becomes a sinner and enlists the aid of heavy metal fanatic José María (Santiago Segura) and occult TV host Professor Cavan (Armando De Razza).  Together, this unlikely trio may be humanity’s last hope to save an already wretched world from demonic forces and prophecized annihilation.  Nominated for 14 Goya Awards (the Spanish Oscars) and winner of 6 including Best Director, Álex de la Iglesia’s hilariously brutal and brutally hilarious sophomore feature is “nothing short of a hangman’s slapstick masterpiece” (Austin Chronicle).

Special Features:

  • Introduction by Álex de la Iglesia
  • Audio commentary with filmmaker Álex de la Iglesia
  • Audio commentary with film scholars Núria Triana Toribio and Andrew Willis
  • Making of The Day of the Beast: The 1995 Spanish Documentary Channel featurette
  • Interviews with Álex de la Iglesia, Armando De Razza and Santiago Segura
  • Theatrical teaser and trailer
  • Gallery of posters, shooting photos and stills
  • Cast and crew filmographies
  • Killer Mirindas, de la Iglesia’s 1991 début short film
  • Acceptance speeches and cast and crew interviews from the 1995 Goya Awards
  • 36-page booklet including the original press book

“Clean Up Madrid” Edition – Package includes:

  • The Day of the Beast on Blu-ray or Standard DVD with over 2 hours of bonus material
  • High quality 720p HD Digital Download of the Film
  • Instant Download of the 46-track The Day of the Beast Motion Picture Soundtrack including the 30-track Original Score of Battista Lena and 16 Satanic Themes selected by Álex de la Iglesia in 320kpbs MP3 Audio
  • 27″ x 40″ Theatrical Poster autographed by de la Iglesia
  • Limited Edition Professor Cavan Eye-in-Hand Amulet
  • Limited Edition “Satannica” T-Shirt

While the Drafthouse Films series is primarily focused upon new titles, it has committed to releasing 2-3 repertory titles a year.  Generally speaking, the series has a paracinematic emphasis, whether embodied in international arthouse films or trash and cult cinema.  As a highly regarded filmmaker in his native Spain and a cult filmmaker with a small, devoted audience in North America, de la Iglesia seems a natural choice for a Drafthouse spine-number and I’m sure that Shark and crew over at the new label are familiar with his work and have little need for convincing.  The Day of the Beast is clearly de la Iglesia’s most critically embraced film, yet has never had a North American release for home-viewing.  With the series currently in its infancy, having only announced 14 spine-numbers and without any Spanish titles or films from the 1990s, The Day of the Beast easily fills a variety of niches that the series likely intends to address in the future.

The reception of de la Iglesia’s films by English-speaking critics usually considers them flawed but entertaining efforts, typified by messy tangles of intriguing characters, novel situations, and stylish flourishes that rarely can be wrestled to accommodate a consistent pace or a satisfying dénouement.  Even his international cult audience recognizes these perceived issues, embracing its inconsistencies as unpredictability and relishing the gleeful excess of its gore and the transgressiveness of its content (what with Father Berriartúa’s willingness to commit all manner of violence on men and women to meet his goal).  The division between the two camps derive from the recognition of the film’s gallows humour.  Writing on the gap between Spanish- and English-language academia surrounding The Day of the Beast, film scholars Núria Triana Toribio and Andrew Willis maintain that Spanish critics typically treat the film as a comedy, or more specifically in the tradition of esperpento, a grotesque and ridiculous black humour.  In their assessment, international critics approach The Day of the Beast first as a horror film, thereby missing much of the humour in de la Iglesia’s premise (that the trio’s efforts to prevent the Apocalypse is largely imagined by a mania fuelled by conspiracy theories and hallucinogens).  Further, Toribio and Willis also see the comedic reading as better enabling an understanding of de la Iglesia’s social commentary – the embrace of low culture (heavy metal, horror, parody), the criticism of high culture (the bourgeois thugs of “Clean Up Madrid” killing the poor, the conservative rhetoric and violent reactions of José María’s mother), the portrayal of media deregulation (typified by Cavan’s cheap and sensationalist The Dark Zone), the depiction of consumer capitalism (Madrid’s urban decay made absurdly garish during the Christmas season).  While non-Spanish cult fans likely do not have this appreciation of the film’s cultural context, they definitely place greater value on the film’s comedic content and therefore seem to approach a fuller appreciation of The Day of the Beast, arguably making the Drafthouse Films series an ideal forum expand North American admiration of de la Iglesia’s work.

Day of the Beast PosterDia de la Bestia PosterThe Drafthouse Films series tends to rely on pre-existing promotional art for its cover treatments, although they often make their cover inserts reversible, allowing them to feature alternative art.  The Day of the Beast luckily has a wonderful theatrical poster with a graphically iconic style.  This red poster with black lettering would make for a bold cover, and a reverse cover of the Spanish poster in black with red lettering would make a clever and symmetrical packaging design.  Personally, I’d like to see the reversible cover go all the way and have even its back cover’s text entirely translated into Spanish as well.

Credits:  I highly recommend Toribio and Willis’ chapter on The Day of the Beast in The Cinema of Álex de la Iglesia, as it provides an excellent review of the film’s domestic context and provides welcome insight and nuance to what might otherwise be considered a humourous genre exercise.  The Drafthouse Films series hasn’t really embraced academic commentaries as the Criterion Collection has, but a commentary by Toribio and Willis would provide a depth of knowledge that would significantly enhance the film’s viewing.  European DVDs of The Day of the Beast have included many of the features cited above – the filmmaker’s commentary, the introduction, the Making of documentary, the gallery, the filmographies.  I believe the interviews are a feature on the German DVD specfically.  Footage of the 1996 Goyas is available to review the film’s critical success.  Lena’s score doesn’t seem to have ever been commercially released, although fan-constructed versions appear to be available on the Interwebs.  The 16 track “theme” album was released but appears now out of print.  A Spanish pressbook was made to accompany the film’s release, although it seems difficult to come by now.

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