Thought about labeling this with its English name… but if I’m gonna commit to labeling anime in their Japanese-English forms, may as well provide the same courtesy, if applicable.
Comedies are fun. Dark comedies? That tends to split a room. Humor aimed at being incredibly uncomfortable, occasionally slipping into experimenting with the abject. Occasionally grotesque in its representation of how far comedy can go to get people amused. For those who can’t quite comprehend what the above image and Spanish text translates to, this is “The Day of the Beast.” Satanism, demonic worship, over-the-top violence… all here and signed in blood.
A period of my life was spent being taught the ways of Christianity and how God is the way, the truth, and the life. I understand a lot of the symbols and general teachings of the religion. Going into this as a pretty stout Atheist, I was mildly concerned that this would just be super edgy for the sake of shock humor and controversy. Fortunately, the film has enough cleverness to try and paint it all as an act of love, soaked in bloody sin.
Even so, if there is any kind of message to any of this, I couldn’t quite gauge it. Maybe some sliver of goodness is necessary in this terrible, horrible world? How simple and obvious. Otherwise, the film does very little to try and say anything definitive with its story. Barely more than a strange scenario brought on by strange characters, with the main protagonist completely dedicated to doing evil for good. It’s complicated.
To meet the devil, you must become the devil’s follower. Sin, evil, and hatred so foul, you must throw away all the teachings of the Holy Savior. Steal, assault, bribery; nothing is off the table of misconduct for our lead, who wishes desperately to find the location of the birth of the antichrist. He will kill it himself or the world is damned. Luckily, some people he meets along the way end up helping his cause—one initially and one eventually. Together, these three end up getting into all sorts of wacky hijinks!
This film would not work without absolutely stellar performances from the cast. Thankfully, everyone was borderline impeccable, completely rooting themselves in this psychotic meltdown of a story that hinges upon a lot of really twisted scenarios. The range capable by all involved—sans perhaps Santiago Segura as José Maria, given his character is relatively the same all the way through—is so easy to get immersed in. As nonsensical and weird this whole thing is, you end up caring about these idiots and their plight.
Despite a roughly 105-minute runtime, this film never drags whatsoever—keeping the plot progressing as smooth as creamy butter. Our, uh, “heroes” encounter many roadblocks along the way, and many scenes simply stop on dead ends. Yet the expectation of finally getting onto something tangible, even if only to them, keeps the conflict impressionable. Just to see what kind of absurdity will occur from their actions, how much they can get away with.
El Día de la Bestia is best described as a rollercoaster. Cliché term, sure, but I feel as though I barely use it—I’m more of a food analogy guy. ‘Cause I’m fat. Anyway, it’s a joyous adrenaline rush when things finally take off. The build-up to that first drop, faster and faster down the track to who knows where? Loops and spins and chaotic movement to-and-fro. Entertaining and fun, a trip that excites the mind with overstimulation and a feasible path to pure abandon. Bonus points if you’re not turned off by the rampant displays of over-the-top violence and mayhem.
Then the ride stops. You get off, you’re jittery. A smile doesn’t leave your face for a while, but it eventually does as your mindset stabilizes. “That was awesome,” you say as you make your way to whatever attraction may suit your preferences afterwards. You may go back, you may not. Whatever you choose to do, you’ll remember it fondly, though it was more “in the moment” than anything. Will the feeling last? Will you remember it for the rest of your life? Maybe. This film’s much of the same way.
I liked it quite a bit. It stayed true to the purpose it set out for and nothing more, which I can respect. Could I have enjoyed this more with more substance? Certainly. Would that have ruined part of the experience? Probably. Whatever the case, if you’re willing to get down with your bad self, this is akin to setting your eyes on fire for about two hours (in a good way). Terrific performances were the key to my enjoyment; maybe you’ll find something else. It’s heavy.
Final Score: 7/10
The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.
For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!