How Álex de la Iglesia Redefines Depictions of Good and Evil, THE EXORCIST, Fright Rags Masks, and More!
In this Issue:
- Horror History: How Álex de la Iglesia Redefines Depictions of Good and Evil
- Image of the Week: That Daring Young Man
- Tiny Bites – This Week’s Best Horror Headlines
- Things We Love: Stay Safe
- Hey, That’s Us! – Shudder in the News
How Álex de la Iglesia Redefines Depictions of Good and Evil
A priest with a murky, traumatic past finds the chance for redemption when tasked with holding the front lines of a long-running battle between divine good and evil. Often, this battle is waged within an object or the body of an innocent possessed by Satanic forces, to be excised and made pure again. That basic plot setup could apply to any number of religious-based horror films, from The Exorcist to The Conjuring. Spanish filmmaker Álex de la Iglesia uses that familiar setup for 30 Coins to convey something far more authentically modern, where faith and moral purity hold a different significance in an apocalyptic biblical war.
De la Iglesia’s body of work consistently places ordinary people in extraordinary pressure cooker situations to see how they’ll fare. Through his trademark use of dark humor and shocking violence, the filmmaker is far more interested in how those situations affect his characters emotionally and psychologically over the events themselves. In 30 Coins, Father Vergara (Eduard Fernández) is barely a few days into his new post as the priest in a rural village when a cow gives birth to a human baby. It’s only the beginning of bizarre phenomena sweeping through the town, and it all seems to tie back to a silver coin that he gives to Elena (Megan Montaner), the town vet. With Vergara holding his secrets close, she enlists the mayor, Paco (Miguel Ángel Silvestre), in the quest for truth.
The premiere episode, “Cobwebs,” reveals Vergara to be a boxer and an ex-convict. He smokes and keeps an arsenal of firearms, which comes in handy when a villager unleashes the cow-baby-turned-spider-thing. Heavily flawed for a man of the cloth, Vergara avoids the standard crisis of faith trope. His past as an exorcist factors into the narrative, but de la Iglesia and co-writer Jorge Guerricaechevarría don’t bother retreading conventional possession storylines, and they don’t need to; the evil is far too broad and robust.
Religious horror tends to place its characters on a clearly defined purity scale of black and white, evil and good. The reality is that humanity exists in the vast grey area in between. Vergara exemplifies that, but so do his reluctant allies. The chemistry between Elena and Paco barely conceals their repressed feelings and history, yet Paco is married. Elena is a regular subject of gossip even without Paco’s help. Neither their faith nor their sins define them, at least not by standard morality metrics.
Rather than wielding restorative faith or divine intervention as stalwart weapons against unstoppable sinister forces, 30 Coins leaves it up to a trio of sinners to serve as the final line of defense. There’s something inherently compelling about seeing ordinary people thrust into a celestial fight for dominance and afforded the grace to fail and try again.
De la Iglesia paints a fantastical “David versus Goliath” narrative, but his most significant subversion of religious horror tropes is that the series isn’t about religion, despite its biblical allusions. The series’ real heart is in its human examination of right versus wrong and a refreshing depiction of good and evil.
Meagan Navarro is a freelance writer and the head critic for Bloody Disgusting. You can also find her work at Consequence of Sound, Fangoria, /Film, and anywhere else that will let her gush about her favorite subject, horror.
IMAGE OF THE WEEK
That Daring Young Man
Take a look back at this 1973 piece on The Exorcist stunt man Chuck Waters who doubled for Jason Miller’s Father Karras when taking a tumble down the famous Georgetown steps.
UNIVERSAL MONSTERS, AMONG US, AND MORE
Universal has made seven of their iconic monster movies available for free on YouTube as of January 15th including Dracula (1931), The Invisible Man (1933), and Bride of Frankenstein (1935).
The Hollywood Reporter wrote about the various films last year that explored the unique grief around elder decline including indie horror hit Relic.
Mike Flanagan tweeted about the DC titles he’d love to have a hand in, including a tragic horror take on Clayface which we would definitely love to see.
This piece explores the academic research that shows how horror movies aren’t just for a thrill, but rather serve as preparation for life.
Salon traces the correlation between today’s true crime and horror podcasts and the penny dreadfuls of yore.
Vulture listed some of their most anticipated novels of 2021 including two horror titles we’re eager to get our hands on.
Meanwhile, new horror literature imprint Nightfire announced it’s full 2021 lineup thus far.
This list ranks the best food scenes in horror movies including such legen-dairy titles as Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, Get Out, and Killer Clowns from Outer Space.
Paste looked at the trajectory of found footage horror cinema from the UK video nasties of the 1980s to today’s horror TikTok shorts.
An animator and Among Us fan decided to create some horror-inspired kill animations and they’re cute as hell.
THINGS WE LOVE
Fans of The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs can now stay safe while showing some love for the series with this Fright Rags mask.