Alive-wire comedy-actioner about a priest determined to thwart the coming of the Antichrist to present-day Madrid, “The Day of the Beast” combines the anarchic spirit of vintageschlock horror with a more contemporary, comic-strip vision of the impending apocalypse. Far more consistent than Spanish director Alex de la Iglesia’s 1992 debut, “Accion mutante,” but still appealingly unrefined, this serving of satanic excess and good-naturedly dumb humor should please young audiences with a taste for off-the-wall cult fare.
In the terrific opening sequence, theology professor Father Angel (Alex Angulo) arrives at the culmination of 25 years of research with his discovery that the beast will be born on Christmas Day in Madrid. He rushes to reveal the knowledge to the monsignor, who prays for God’s assistance and is promptly flattened by a falling crucifix. Unable to pinpoint the exact time and place of Satan’s arrival, Angel sets out to court the demonic muse; he robs a blind man, sends a dying accident victim to hell and pushes a mime down a stairwell, all before the main titles are through.
Searching for signs of the devil, he wanders into a death-metal music store manned by headbanger Jose Maria (Santiago Segura), who directs him to a shady pensione presided over by his harridan mother, Rosaria (Terele Pavez). The place also is home to equine beauty Mina (Nathalie Sesena), their virgin housekeeper, and to Jose Maria’s nudist grandfather.
Enlisting Jose Maria’s help, Angel tracks down celebrity parapsychologist Professor Cavan (Armando De Razza), who contacts the spirit world and makes demon-exorcizing house calls on his TV show “The Dark Side.” After being beaten into submission, Cavan shows them how to invoke the devil, using white bread, the blood of a virgin and a tab of the LSD Jose Maria administers to grandpa to keep him happy. The charlatan’s methods actually prove functional,and when the devil appears in the form of a goat, a rapid crescendo of pandemonium ensues.
The film’s comedic violence and gore is orchestrated with an enjoyably light touch, particularly in a hilarious conflict between the solemn priest and Rosaria, who becomes a militant crime-fighter.
Action set pieces also are keen, notably a sequence with the three protagonists clinging to a giant Schweppes neon overlooking the city. While some of the story’s threads begin to unravel slightly as the film proceeds, it remains energetic and enjoyable.
The over-the-top cast is fully synchronized with the outlandish material, with production credits tops all around.