Running with the Devil: The Films of Alex de la Iglesia

With a retrospective kicking off this week at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, Alex de la Iglesia: Dancing With The Devil showcases a master of the warped and demented. A filmmaker that draws viewers in with a unique mixture of dark themes, schlocky horror, comedy, and action, Spanish filmmaker Alex de la Iglesia has transcended genre and language boundaries throughout his career, rising him to levels that have made him a festival darling, a beloved cult filmmaker, and a legitimate cinematic auteur.

Day of the Beast

It didn’t take long for Iglesia to make his mark, winning Goya awards for Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay for The Day of the Beast (Friday, January 30th, 9:30pm).  It’s a simple yet brilliantly told story about a Spanish priest convinced that the birth of the Antichrist is imminent, unless he can commit enough sin and surround himself with enough evil to convince the devil that they’re on the same side. It’s an unadulterated hoot to watch, and clearly establishes Iglesia as a fearless iconoclast with something to say.

Dying of Laughter

The man’s warped sense of humor continues to shine through in hilariously twisted efforts like Dying of Laughter (Tuesday, February 3rd, 9:00pm), where the mutual loathing between a newly reunited comedy team erupts into total chaos and violence, and Common Wealth (Saturday, February 21st, 9:30pm) puts a fresh spin on the classically macabre with a darker tale of a real estate agent trying to lay claim to a large amount of cash she randomly finds. His sense of humor and comedy combined with a cavalcade of grim horror permeates throughout quite a bit of films, even his most recent effort, the offbeat heist flick Witching & Bitching (Saturday, March 21st, 9:00pm).

As Luck Would Have It - featured

He has also been known to craft some blood soaked, over the top odes to other genres outside the horror realm. 800 Bullets (Thursday, February 26th, 9:00pm) drolly recreates the same locations and tone of Italian produced spaghetti westerns of the 1960’s and 70’s.  His Salma Hayek starring media satire As Luck Would Have It (Saturday, March 14th, 8:45pm) has garnered many comparisons to Billy Wilder’s classic Ace in the Hole. He also embraces the ludicrous and the allegorical in The Last Circus (Saturday, March 28th, 9:45pm), a gleeful romp which will make you never be able to look at clowns the same way again.


His English language debut Perdita Durango (Saturday, February 7th, 8:30pm), starring Rosie Perez and Javier Bardem (boasting one of cinema’s greatest mullets) is the story of a crazed, sexy, and occult minded duo that makes the killers in Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers look tame in comparison. Even though this one got cut down and censored in various ways across the globe, TIFF will be presenting the film in its original, uncut Spanish form.

The Oxford Murders

Then there’s the inclusion of the somewhat standard English language thriller The Oxford Murders (Sunday, February 8th, 9:00pm). It’s easily his weakest film, casting Elijah Wood and John Hurt in a tale of murder amongst mathematicians. It’s Iglesia’s most restrained film (which is most of the problem), but it does show that he can still create a decent amount of tension without resorting to the stylistic tricks of his crazier efforts.

If anything, throughout his entire career Alex de la Iglesia has never been a boring storyteller, and with this new retrospective we get a glimpse into this man’s warped and hilarious heart of darkness.

For more information, a full list of films and showtimes, and tickets, please visit TIFF.NET.