For the most part, the genre of Christmas Horror is made up of stalkers. Killer Santas and snowmen are par for the course, with Gremlins being the main exception. Nobody ever tackled Christmas quite like Alex de la Iglesia.
El Dia de la Bestia takes place over the course of 2 days before Christmas. Father Cura, a priest and theology professor, has decoded Revelations. He discovered it’s a puzzle revealing the date for the birth of the antichrist, that Christmas. He believes the birth will happen somewhere in Madrid, but doesn’t know where or why or how. In order to figure out where it will happen, he has to sell his soul to the devil. Of course, the devil wouldn’t trust a priest, so he has to taint his soul by committing a crime spree while keeping an eye out for messages that clue him into the universe at large.
The whole movie isn’t nearly as blasphemous as the setup leads you to believe. Sure, it opens with a priest being killed by a falling stone cross in a church, but the film is uninterested in deep philosophical discussion or dissecting religious belief. I don’t think Iglesia has a straight-faced bone in his body. Instead, Bestia is a blackly comic horror movie that is far more interested in mocking the occult than even in mocking Christianity.
Iglesia really displays what he’s good at here, making a movie that plays to the cheap seats. From the beginning of his career, his motto seems to be, “Go big or go home.” With Bestia, he keeps true to his nature by stepping on the gas pedal and never letting it go. There’s a roving gang of Nationalists killing homeless people and foreigners while leaving their graffiti “Clean Up Madrid.” There’s a television occult psychic who sells books on how to contact Satan. There’s an old man who shows up naked from time to time. Iglesia keeps Cura waffling between obsessed and delusional.
When I thought about writing about Bestia, I had been hoping this would have been a Bootleg Discovery. It has only seen an official VHS release in the US, but hasn’t had a legitimate DVD release yet. Even Scarecrow, where I rented the film, only has the film in a PAL/Region 2 format. But, sadly, I can’t even find it on legit streaming websites. It’s a damned shame, because this is one of Iglesia’s most successful ventures, earning him a Goya for Best Director (and being nominated for Best Film).
Go forth and watch. If only because Spanish-Oscar-winning blasphemous horror comedies about the intersection of Christmas and the apocalypse don’t come around that often.