DirectorAlex de la Iglesia
Release Date(s)1995 (March 30, 2021)
Studio(s)Canal+ Espana/Trimark Pictures (Severin Films)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B+
After stepping into the feature-length filmmaking world with Accion Mutante, former comic book artist Alex de la Iglesia debuted his second film The Day of the Beast (aka El dia de la bestia), winning several awards in his home country of Spain and further cementing his cult status outside of it. An unusual blend of dark comedy, fantasy, and horror with thriller elements, the film is ultimately elevated with potent direction, off the wall ideas, and strong but playful performances. The plot isn’t necessarily the motor that keeps the film’s engine running. It’s the interactions between characters and their escalating exploits as they move from one out of control situation to the next. In this instance, the succession of the story is the icing on the cake. Though the film has elements of what would make later horror comedies like Shaun of the Dead and What We Do in the Shadows successful (more overt comedies though they may be), The Day of the Beast hasn’t had nearly the same amount of impact outside of its native country.
Father Angel (Alex Angulo), a devoted priest and theology professor, confesses to a fellow priest that he must go out into the world after discovering a hidden code within the Bible that gives the exact date of the birth of the Antichrist: Christmas Eve, which is upon them. Leaving the church and committing multiple sinful acts to draw the Antichrist closer to him, he befriends local record shop owner and self-confessed Satan worshiper Jose (Santiago Segura), who agrees to help him. They later kidnap TV show host Professor Cavan (Armando de Razza), a successful but phony occultist. Intending to sell his soul to Satan using Jose’s music and Cavan’s guidance, Father Angel performs a successful ritual, which convinces a skeptical Cavan. On the run from the police, they must now discover where the Antichrist will be born in order to save the world, running into constant threat along the way.
The Day of the Beast was shot and finished photochemically on 35 mm film with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Severin Films presents it on Ultra HD with a 4K restoration of the original camera negative, color graded for HDR10. The results are mostly pleasing. Aspects of the visuals don’t always lend themselves to 2160p quality, including the TV sequences and the low resolution special effects (the latter of which were completed on PAL video, so quality issues are baked in). Otherwise, a strong, organic presentation is offered with healthy grain levels that rarely spike. Detail excels, especially in darker areas of the frame. Whether it’s the bright interiors of Cavan’s apartment or the shadowed construction area during the climax, everything resolves quite nicely. The color palette isn’t loaded with variety, but the wider color gamut brings the most depth out of it. Blacks are solid and there are only mild bits of speckling in evidence.
Audio options include Spanish and English 2.0, as well as Spanish 5.1, all in DTS-HD MA format with optional English subtitles. The English option is fine for a dub, but the original language tracks are obviously the better way to go. The 5.1 isn’t entirely immersive, though it provides more breathing room for the score, the heavy metal music, and ambient activity in and around the crowded city streets. On both tracks, dialogue exchanges are clear and precise, while sound effects often have impact in the lowest registers. All three tracks are free of leftover hiss, crackle, or dropouts.
Severin’s Ultra HD disc contains no extras, but the film is also included on a separate Blu-ray Disc in 1080p HD, utilizing the same restoration. It adds the following extras:
- Heirs of the Beast (HD – 80:53)
- Antichrist Superstar (HD – 28:11)
- The Man Who Saved the World (HD – 19:58)
- Beauty and the Beast (HD – 17:09)
- Shooting Day of the Beast (HD – 2:36)
- Mirindas Asesinas Short Film (HD – 12:28)
- Trailers (HD and Upsampled SD – 2 in all – 4:23)
Heirs of the Beast (aka Herederos de la bestia) is an excellent feature-length documentary about the making of the film and its impact on the Spanish filmmaking community. It features behind-the-scenes footage, storyboards, stills, and interviews with many members of the cast and crew, critics, and colleagues, including Alex de la Iglesia himself, actors Armando de Razza, Santiago Segura, Nathalie Sesena, Terele Pavez, Saturino Garcia, co-writer Jorge Guerricaechevarria, producer Andres Vincente Gomez, director of photography Flavio Martinez Labiano. makeup and special effects artists David Marti and Reyes Abades, still photographer Pipo Fernandez; and Def Con Dos singer Cesar Strawberry, among many others. Antichrist Superstar features a separate interview with Alex de la Iglesia about how the film came into being, its influences, and his filmmaking beginnings. In The Man Who Saved the World, actor Armando de Razza discusses facets of his career, aspects of his character, the difficulties of having to be physical for the role, shooting in Madrid, working with Alex Angulo, his injuries during filming, and the possibility of a sequel. In Beauty and the Beast, actress Martia Grazia Cucinotta talks about how she was cast in the film, working with Alex de la Iglesia, her character, discovering the cult audience for the film in the US, and her memories of the shoot. In Shooting Day of the Beast, director of photography Flavio Martinez Labiano briefly speaks about how he got involved with the film, what Madrid was like in those days, and shooting the film at night. Mirindas Asesinas is a short film directed by Alex de la Iglesia in 1990, starring Alex Angulo. Rounding out the extras are the film’s English and Spanish trailers.
Worthy of greater appreciation in the US, The Day of the Beast is the type of well-crafted dark fantasy with which directors like Guillermo Del Toro would later become synonymous. Severin’s presentation of the film, and the extras that go with it, is excellent. This 4K release is the perfect way to experience the film for the first time.
- Tim Salmons