Sony Pictures International Productions and Amazon Prime Video recently signed a contract for a new anthology of horror films, The Fear Collection, led by exceptional Spanish director Alex de la Iglesia. This agreement includes distribution in Spain, although the details of the distribution plans in the United States have not yet been disclosed, which seems appropriate as it seems to reflect Iglesia’s level of knowledge in that State. He is an ardent supporter of his twisted and distinctive humour and his unique ability to mix genres, from comedy to outright black terror. Iglesia’s films are generally festival favourites, developed by cult followers, but at the level of the general public it remains an undiscovered gem. Just as with the announcement of The Fear Collection, everything related to the name Iglesia should receive more attention than before. That’s why we emphasize his work on shifting the boundaries.
The breakthrough of the Iglesia, El Dia de la Bestia (the day of the beast), made waves in his native Spain. This wonderfully crazy Christmas film, released in 1995, tells the story of a Catholic priest who is convinced that the holidays will lead to the appearance of the Antichrist. He joined forces with a Black Metal fan and an Italian occultist to commit as many sins as possible and prevent the apocalypse. The priest concludes that if he can gain Satan’s trust through sin, he can find where the Antichrist was born and then kill him. She is diabolical and hilarious, it seems, and soon proved that Iglesia was a radical filmmaker. The Day of the Beast was very well received by the critics. Even more impressive is the fact that she has won six Goya awards – the Spanish equivalent of an Oscar – for best directing, best new role in Santiago Segura, best artistic production, best sound, best special effects, best make-up and best hairstyle.
This meant that the success of the film could not be ignored and could be demanded internationally. Shortly after the Day of the Beast he made his English debut as Perdita Durango. Perdita Durango, also known as Dance with the Devil, mixes a criminal thriller with occult horror and is based on Barry Gifford’s 59° and Rain in 1992: The story of Perdita Durango, the third book in the series Sailor and Lula. This means it has little to do with the wilderness in the heart of David Lynch, whose version of Perdita was played by Isabella Rosselini. To adapt Iglesia, Rosie Perez played a character of the same name and Javier Bardem her lover Romeo. Romeo, a Santerian priest and drug trafficker, is involved in a gangster scheme to transport embryos across the U.S. border, encouraging Perdita and Romeo to engage in criminal activity when they attempt to kidnap, rape and sacrifice a young couple. In other words, they are part of the same conversation as Mickey and Mallory of Natural Born Killers. It’s brutal, uncomfortable and disturbing, most of them have been edited for various releases around the world. The fact that this feature film has never been properly exploited in the United States has made it even darker.
Perdita Durango is also a deviation in the work of Iglesia, especially in the tone of voice. His later return to the Total Wealth genre in 2000 was a return to form. When a real estate agent finds a treasure hidden in the deceased’s apartment, she discovers that her neighbors are wasting their time trying to get money. By mixing crime, horror and comedy, the shared wealth becomes frankly bleak without ever losing its comic character. That’s exactly what makes Iglesia so nervous.
In the children’s room, Iglesia opted for a more direct terror. The part Películas para no dormir (Films that keep you awake), made for an anthology television series, follows a sports writer, Juan, who has just moved in with an old craftsman with his wife and a newborn baby. Juan starts hearing strange sounds and voices on the baby’s night monitor, but can’t find the source. The mystery unfolds, and it’s a little more complex than your usual mind.
One of Iglesia’s most famous films, The Last Circus, was released in 2010. In this dark horror comedy, in which the young trapeze artist is torn between her thirst for Sergio, the happy clown, and her attachment to Javier, the sad clown, she bites herself into a social satire and encounters brutal violence. The fact that the two clowns are stalking people means an explosive love triangle with catastrophic casualties.
Perhaps his most famous genre film among fans is Las brujas de Zugarramurdi 2013, which translates as The Witches of Zugarramurdi. In North America, however, it was published under the catchy name Witching & Bitching. The story shows a group of armed thieves on the run after the robbery that became fatal. You’re in a remote village inhabited by man-eating witches. Subversive, crazy and insane – Witching & Bitching has won eight Goya Awards in ten categories. We therefore want our prize-giving ceremonies to be as respectful as possible with regard to such rates.
Iglesia’s latest genre film is Bar, an annoying little film, very annoying. When an invisible sniper opens fire in the centre of Madrid, a heterogeneous group of people seek refuge in a local bar. The longer they’re stuck there, the more paranoia and distrust threaten civilization. Add a possible virus outbreak and malignancy. I should also mention that this film is not afraid to be disgusting. He has a cast of unreliable characters, which is only compensated by the Iglesia sense of humour. But this comedy is the darkest, darkest comedy ever.
Although Iglesia has long established herself as a director who tends to do strange, grotesque and dark things, she is no exception to directing. He’s also been producing in recent years. In 2014 he produced the agoraphobic thriller by Juanfer Andres and Esteban Ruhl Nest, currently available from Shudder, and the fantastic horror film Netflix Errementari.
The recent announcement of The Fear Collection means that the release is still a long way off, giving Iglesia enough time to catch up. Even better, most of them are available via streaming platforms. The bar was hidden on Netflix. Perdita Durango (Dance with the Devil) and the nursery are now available on Tubi. The Day of the Beast can be broadcast via Kanopy. If your local library does not allow access to the videos, they are available on FlixLatino on Prime Video under the Spanish name. The rest of the films can be rented via VOD. The filmmaker is a huge and constantly in demand in Spain, but he seems to have only one cult following the state.
Alex de la Iglesia uses schlockerhorror and caustic humour to undermine the bitterness of his films. His characters are deeply imperfect, and he tends to explore the ugliest aspects of humanity. But Iglesia manages to tell the most cynical and dark stories with a strange empathy. He is a modern director who crosses borders with a strange mix of tonality and a unique voice. It’s a good time to get to its unusual wavelength.