Tepid and Tasteless, Menéndez: The Day of the Lord (2020)’s biggest Sin is its Bizarre Setup
Title: Menéndez: The Day of the Lord
First Wide Release: October 30, 2020 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Santiago Alvarado Ilarri
Writer: Santiago Alvarado Ilarri, Ramón Salas
Runtime: 93 Minutes
Starring: Juli Fàbregas, Hector Illanes, Dolores Heredia
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Released from prison after a young boy died during an exorcism, a retired priest, Menéndez (Juli Fàbregas), lives his life out in isolation when he is visited by a former member of his congregation, Sebas (Hector Illanes). Sebas tells Menéndez that his daughter, Raquel (Ximena Romo), is possessed and that he has run out of options. Menéndez decides to help and goes through his special process for expelling the demon. Santiago Alvarado Ilarri directs this straight to Netflix demonic chiller.
Plodding and downright weird, Menéndez: The Day of the Lord is an obnoxious and nauseating experience.
Another entry in the possession subgenre, Menéndez: The Day of the Lord tells a typical story. It is pretty obvious where the story is going, but the writing team attempts to create enough doubt with some red herrings here and there. The foreshadowing, however, makes it pretty easy to pick them all apart. Overall, it isn’t that interesting of a watch given its bland nature and the odd choices made regarding the film’s plot progression.
The characters of Menéndez: The Day of the Lord don’t do much to entertain either. There’s nothing compelling or interesting about any of the bunch. Raquel is a bratty teenage girl, Sebas is the screwup father, and Menéndez is the embattled priest with a dark past. We learn nothing beyond a few throwaway lines of dialogue about each character before we realize there is no reason to care about them. They are all varying degrees of awful that serve as little more than demon fodder. Menéndez in particular is a poorly rendered character that could yield a more interesting character arc than he rides. Acting-wise, Ximena Romo stands out beyond the rest for breathing life into the demanding role of the possessed teenager.
The very opening sequence of the film had me hooked. It is sleek, artfully filmed, and above all absolutely cinematic. It is a shame that the rest of the film that follows is so meh. It might be its single location setting or more of an issue with the script, but it is so dull. It doesn’t help that there are plenty of questionable scene transitions that just do not work. The effects are largely fine with the only egregious sins originating from some hokey eye makeup that is sparsely used.
Director Ilarri clearly wants to set this film up to be the first in a series, I truly hope that he moves onto other creative products instead. I think budgetary constraints might have limited him here if the opening sequence is any indicator of what he can do with more freedom. The rest of the film is a flat experience and generally a mess. The creative decision to make a torture themed exorcism movie feels more like a “what if” question than an answer to any number of more interesting and substantive questions that could have been posed. Even further, Menéndez: The Day of the Lord feels like many different films smashed together just for the hell of it. The final product lacks the cohesion or sense to really sell it.
To get to the crux of why I dislike this film without having much to really throw at its technical merits, it is tasteless without having something meaningful to say. The whole idea of an exorcism with this level of brutality is just weird to me. It doesn’t seem effective either. Obviously, a recurring idea in possession films is the demon telling outrageous lies, which is fine. But there are too many times where sexual violence gets weaponized as a lie. The priest is branded a pedophile long before the exorcism begins, the demon claims Menéndez gets off on hurting the girl, the demon literally laughs while calling the police about being raped, etc. Menéndez even exclaims at one point “I’m going to fuck the devil” which is both absurdly comical but also creepy given the circumstances. Maybe this is just something I care about, but it seems irresponsible to me and made the film rather sickening really. And not in the way a horror film should be either.
I am not a huge fan of this film. I think it has some merits, especially concerning making its viewers uncomfortable, but it goes too far without much purpose. Much of its depravity and violence isn’t justified with anything profound or otherwise gratifying at the end. In fact, it ends with the promise of a sequel which makes this reviewer wonder who will be clamoring for another iteration of this story. Fans of possession movies might be interested, but unless you are a diehard, I would encourage you to skip this film and stream something with less incestual rape.
Overall Score? 4.5/10