Now that Sam Raimi’s a serious filmmaker, America needs someone to fill the role of the manic, demented horror/action auteur. Sam never seemed too comfortable with it, and he was on the tail end of the group of directors from the 70’s and early 80’s who all did horror and were some of the best filmmakers movies had to offer, PERIOD. Wes Craven, David Cronenberg, John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper and others were blazing new trails in new styles and made genre filmmaking great again. Who do we have now? We’ve got a new generation of slasher films, but that’s what killed off horror 15 years ago. We’ve got a horror film here and there, but no sign of GREATNESS. Robert Rodriguez (“From Dusk Till Dawn”) seems game, but he hasn’t shown any real vision, just some fancy camerawork.
Maybe… we’re just not looking in the right place. Maybe… we need to look to… SPAIN?
Yup, the country that gave us Pedro Almadovar has given us THE new genre auteur, and his name is Alex De La Iglesia and his film is called “The Day of the Beast”.
Father Angel (Alex Angulo) has been studying apocalyptic scripture for 25 years and has come to the conclusion that the Anti-Christ, to mock God, will be born in Madrid on Christmas day. He tries to warn people, but no one will believe him. He decides to find the birth and kill the Anti-Christ himself.
Since the priest doesn’t know where the birth is to take place, he decides he must BECOME EVIL to FIND EVIL. As soon as he arrives in Madrid, we get a montage of him stealing change from a beggar, telling a dying accident victim to rot in hell, and hitting a mime. During his mission he acquires the help of a large, heavy metal record store clerk, Jose Maria (Santiago Segura), and an occult reality television host, Professor Cavan (Armando De Razza). Along the way, everyone is so caught up in the drama, they forget Father Angel might just be, well, INSANE.
Did I mention this was also a wacky comedy? A wacky PHYSICAL comedy? If Mel Brooks had directed “The Omen”, it may have come out like this. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard at people getting the crap kicked out of them. It happens to EVERYBODY. By the end of the film, Jose enters every room by clocking somebody. There’s a scene where the priest must get some blood from a virgin. It’s so “Young Frankenstein” in suspense and humor it made me realize how good both films are.
The only thing I’m struggling with is whether to put this on my top ten list for the year. The reason is, while this film is coming out now in America, it came out in Spain in 1995! It was De La Iglesia’s second film, after “Action Mutante” (viewing while sober NOT recomended), and he’s since made “Perdida Durango” with Rosie Perez which is yet to be released in the U.S. He has two more films to be released in Spain in 1999, including a new “Fu Manchu” movie! Strangely, this is the same problem I have with the Japanese gay gangster film, “Gonin”. It also came out in 1995 but not in America until this year. Even stranger, both the director of that film, Takeashi Ishii, and De La Iglesia have backgrounds in comic books. It’s better than getting all your inspiration from other movies. Both also give me hope for the future development of genre films. All in all, it’s not a bad problem to have.