Christmas films are often associated with warmth, family, togetherness and a general infusion of the joys of the festive season, not horror. However, there are a number of horror films set at the festive season, a time when you would least expect the evils of the world to be on display. Therefore, this year the Alternative Christmas Film Advent Calendar, inspired by last year’s selection of Anna And The Apocalypse, takes aim at Christmas horror films.
Day two of this year’s calendar and after delving into a Santa Claus home invasion let’s take a look at another big figure of the festive season. For many Christmas is marked by the birth of the baby Jesus, not the antichrist. Yet, in The Day Of The Beast on Christmas Eve the presence of the devil and the antichrist are felt by a Catholic Priest intent on stopping them from bringing about the apocalypse.
Christmas is largely known as a time for kindness and generosity, however Father Ángel Berriartúa (Alex Angulo) announces in the opening scene to his fellow priest that he intends to commit as many sins as possible. Away he goes stealing, pushing over street performers and committing all sorts of minor crimes and grievances. Once meeting record store owner José María (Santiago Segura) the two form a partnership intent on fulfilling Ángel’s aim of ridding the world of the soon-to-be-born antichrist – on Christmas Eve of all nights, when the streets are packed with last minute shoppers. Throw in an alleged TV psychic (Armando De Razza) and the horrors of communicating with the devil begin to properly come into play.
Yet, before any actual confrontation with the face of evil; and even after the first effects of a summoning circle are witnessed, a lot of the potential fear, and some of the dark comedy that’s prominent throughout the first half of the film, Ángel’s mental state is almost questioned. Is everything he claims true, or is it all simply part of a descent into madness and delusion? Has he an ulterior motive that links to darker intentions? As the film plays out and the three central figures become increasingly battered and bruised by their investigation this question is asked more and more.
While it could be said that the central team come together at Christmas and there are bonds formed many of the films themes and ideas, in fact the base plot as a whole, are almost the antithesis of what most people associate Christmas with. Rooted in tones of darkness, fear and the potential end of the world there’s a lack of peace and harmony as the desperation of the characters heightens. The horror conventions are well and truly in place throughout, even if the film itself isn’t exactly the scariest, although playing more as a horror in the second half.
Black comedy is a key tone during the first half of co-writer (alongside Jorge Guerricaechevarría) and director Álex de la Iglesia’s film. His central figure is unsure as to how he should sin, and what crimes he should commit – finding himself listening to extremely heavy metal about Satan and asking for records to be played in reverse for devil worshipping messages, while the man behind the counter worries about it breaking the record player. The film initially pokes fun at the frantic situation that the narrative is made up of, as it seems that the priest may be foreseeing things that aren’t really there/ won’t actually happen.
Throughout the elements of horror and dark comedy the question about the visions and alleged foreseen future is, is it just in his mind, or is it real? Either way there’s a chance that it can help everyone have a better and more peaceful Christmas, and potentially save the world and prevent the apocalypse – perhaps there is a bit of festive cheer present after all.
The Day Of The Beast can be watched in the following places:
Or, you may have a physical copy on DVD or another format. There may be other streaming options available, it’s always good to check JustWatch to see where you can watch the film in your country.