Following on the surprisingly good Virus: 32, Shudder recently began streaming another Argentinean horror export, On Third Day. As its title implies, the thriller’s mysterious story revolves around some religious cult or conspiracy. Aside from its basic premise, which involves a mother’s son who goes missing after a car crash, On The Third Day comes with very little advance hype. Unfortunately, the only version that seems to be available in North American includes English dubbing in place of subtitles. And the small handful of critics who weighed in on the movie so far have been underwhelmed.
Fleeing an abusive ex-husband, Cecilia grabs her son, Martín, and drives off in the middle of the night. But a moment’s distraction leads to a car crash with an eccentric priest hauling mysterious cargo. Three days after the crash, police find Cecilia wander the same stretch of road alone and confused. She has no memory of the past three days and her son is missing. As she desperately searches for Martin, Cecilia’s path crosses with a detective investigating a series of brutal crimes and the same priest from the accident who’s now fixated on finding her.
On The Third Day An Often Visually Impressive Horror Movie
With its title and the associated religious connotations, On The Third Day brims with potential. Director Daniel de la Vega effectively sets the religious thriller’s premise in motion. In spite of its relatively smaller budget, de la Vega makes the car crash that sets things in motion look brutal. It’s one of a handful of well-orchestrated scenes that impresses. In fact, On The Third Day strikes an effective – if somewhat inconsistent – atmosphere across its 85 minutes. Occasionally, de la Vega even gives his thriller a surrealist vibe that coalesces with the nightmarish world into which Cecilia finds herself.
In fact, On The Third Day strikes an effective – if somewhat inconsistent – atmosphere across its 85 minutes.
As for its moments of more overt horror, de la Vega finds even more success. When the story focuses on its rogue priest On The Third Day delivers some of its more disturbing and unsettling images. Other elements of the movie don’t always mesh together. When we follow Cecilia’s search for Martin, the supernatural thriller stylistically diverges from other scenes, tapping into similar vibes as surrealist 70s horror movies like Don’t Look Now. But de la Vega conjures up a handful of effective scares and the climax is almost edge-of-your suspense before things end rather abruptly.
On The Third Day’s Story Loses Focus on Peripheral Characters and Story Threads
Despite early promise and several well-crafted moments, de la Vega’s overall effort feels mixed. If there’s a primary culprit, look no further than Alberto Fasce and Gonzalo’s screenplay. For such a short movie, the story sidetracks far too often to peripheral characters and unnecessary subplots. There’s an earnest doctor who’s keen on helping Cecilia. And in the most needless bit of storytelling, On The Third Day wastes too much time on a dogged police detective who feels like a cliché taken straight out of an 80s action movie. Neither of these characters nor their time on screen add much, if anything, to the movie. Worst of all, they distract from far more interesting ideas that feel untapped.
For such a short movie, the story sidetracks far too often to peripheral characters and unnecessary subplots.
Another consequence of perhaps trying to do much is that the movie often feels convoluted, particularly in the early going. It’s not always clear what’s happening or why. As de la Vega narrow the focus for the climax, this narrative cloudiness matters less but it’s a recurring problem. To be fair to the writers. some questionable editing may add continuity problems. And the English dubbing detracts from what might otherwise be very compelling performances. Yet a bigger concern is that much of the movie hinges on a twist that ultimately underwhelms. After spending so much time wondering what happened to Martin – and what the priest had hidden on his truck – the movie’s twist just kind of falls flat. It feels a bit like a case of diverting from expectations simply for the sake of doing so. And it feels somewhat incongruent with the themes that de la Vega spent most of the movie building on.
On The Third Day a Decent, But Mostly Mixed, Effort
Certainly, On The Third Day isn’t lacking for style. Though some scenes occasionally betray its lower budget, by and large, Shudder’s latest release boasts a handful of visually impressive moments. And de la Vega wrings a few scares against a fairly consistent surreal atmosphere. But Fasce and Ventura’s story is an absolute mess including an unnecessary, hackneyed subplot about a hardnosed detective. Too much of the story also invests in a twist that underwhelms. Bad English dubbing – which seems to be the only version of the movie available here – just exacerbates the thriller’s downsides. Still at 85 minutes On The Third Day may look good enough for horror fans to pass some time.