FANTASIA FEST 2021 REVIEW! The Argentinian horror-fantasy On The 3rd Day (Al Tercer Día) follows Cecilia (Mariana Anghileri) as she and her son, Martin, head out on a road trip. She doesn’t tell her child that the purpose of the excursion is to escape her abusive ex/his father, Fernando (Diego Cremonesi). However, while driving, a mysterious man, Enrique (Gerardo Romano), driving a truck carrying strange cargo, hits them.
Three days after the accident, Cecilia winds up on the porch of a stranger’s house. At the hospital, the doctors and the police try to piece together what happened during that lost time and where Martin is currently. She honestly cannot remember, but several people in Cecilia’s orbit wind up dead as she searches for her son and her memories.
Written by Alberto Fasce and Gonzalo Ventura, On The 3rd Day is good but suffers from a major flaw — it is not nearly as mysterious as it thinks it is. The story is set up as a mystery, with everyone, including the lead, trying to figure out what happened to Cecilia and Martin immediately after the accident. However, due to the opening, which involves Enrique getting everything ready for his journey, it is all given away. The way his cargo is secured, its shape, the fact that he’s traveling at night… astute readers have already begun to piece it together.
“…several people in Cecilia’s orbit wind up dead as she searches for her son and her memories.”
This reliance on mystery means that a lot of the potential fun for horror buffs is not present. Most of the deaths are seen after the fact, so the visceral carnage one might expect isn’t present either. And since viewers are waiting for the story to catch up to them, the film, which is not even a full 90-minutes long, drags in several places, especially in the middle, after Cecilia is in the hospital but before she finds Enrique.
Happily, the lighting and visual compositions are so striking and intense that they do much of the heavy lifting the screenplay fails to. Director Daniel de la Vega wrings a sense of paranoia and fear out of every moment he can, especially during the climax, which ably gets the heart racing in the best possible way. Plus, the cast breathes a lot of life into their characters, so this group of people is at least engaging and interesting, even when the plot they are in is less so.
On The 3rd Day is beautifully shot and well-acted, all accompanied by a truly majestic and eerie score. These elements make the film worth watching all on their own, even though the narrative is not as clever as it thinks it is, and viewers will be five steps ahead at all times. Still, if one does not mind a non-mysterious mystery, there is plenty to appreciate here.
Side note: Several reviews at other outlets have just outright spoiled the mystery. Since On The 3rd Day is a horror-tinged investigation story, such a thing is wholly unfair to both the film’s structure and audience members who won’t be allowed to have the plot wash over them as it is unfolding. Again, it is not hard to discern the true nature of the proceedings, but one should not give out the secrets of a movie all willy-nilly. So, please be careful if/when reading other publications’ reviews of this title. Rant over!
On The 3rd Day screened at the 2021 Fantasia Film Festival.
"…Vega wrings a sense of paranoia and fear out of every moment..."