On the 3rd Day Dizzies and Loses Something in Translation

Mariana Anghileri as Cecilia Amato | On the 3rd Day | Photo Credit: Shudder

This week’s Shudder premiere, director Daniel De la Vega’s On the 3rd Day, was a bit of a rough one for me. JP Nunez reviewed the film when it played at Fantasia last year, leaving a glowing review of the Argentinean film. My experience was less than positive. That’s not abnormal because JP and I often see movies through different lenses, and I can honestly see why he liked the film. However, my take may have been doomed from the start. 

A woman sits in a chair staring into the camera in On the 3rd Day
Mariana Anghileri as Cecilia Amato | Photo Credit: Shudder

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let me give you the rundown. On the 3rd Day stars Argentinean superstar and Argentinean Academy Winner for Best Actress Mariana Anghileri as Cecilia, an amnesiac woman desperately searching for her missing son (Octavio Belmonte) following a horrific car accident. Covered in blood, she stumbles into a nearby service station where she can call for help and is immediately rushed to the hospital. A helpful doctor (Lautaro Delgado) gets involved, serving as a buffer in Cecilia’s battles against her ex-husband (Diego Cremonsei), assists in the recovery of her memory of the event, and stifles a police inspector’s (Osvaldo Santoro) investigation. Throughout her crusade, Cecilia sees supernatural events in mirrors and haunting visions of the man in the other car. Whatever it all means, she’s determined to find out what happened and get her son back at all costs.  

As far as South American, and especially Argentinean, horror is concerned, I’m a huge fan. Terrified, History of the Occult, and Pussycake are films I would recommend, albeit with caveats pertaining to specific tastes attached. On the 3rd Day probably wouldn’t make the cut, though it may not entirely be the film’s fault. The review copy sent to Horror Obsessive was a (poorly) dubbed-over copy of the film. I would much rather read subtitles, mainly because I believe the acting better shines through in the actors’ native language. When you have a high-caliber and award-winning actress such as Anghileri involved, it’s difficult for a movie to earn merit on their performance when the dubbing tries to sync lips and words recklessly and abandons context, subtlety, and sometimes cuts pieces of dialogue altogether. Label me pretentious or whatever, but I find subtitles largely preferable. While giallo fans may enjoy the initial charm the dubbing gives this macabre mystery, I can confirm the poor voice acting in On the 3rd Day becomes unfavorable fast and is a big reason why I continued losing focus while watching (and then rewatching) the film. 

A grey haired man prays toward the ceiling in On the 3rd Day
Photo Credit: Shudder

Though the dubbing may have been my least favorite part of the experience, I felt the story itself was also very disheveled. See, after Cecilia has her car accident, events happen rather quickly in an attempt to make the viewer believe the car accident just happened. I was halfway through the film when a hypnotist got involved. The scene is particularly reminiscent of Get Out’s similar sequence, though this time with a willing participant. However, it’s the first time (in the English dub anyway) that I realized all of the car crash events are three days removed from the timeline. This scene largely contributed to me restarting On the 3rd Day because I felt as though I might be the one that was unfocused while watching the movie. On my second watch, I found myself arriving at the same conclusion. I don’t consider this to be a spoiler since both the film’s title and its IMDb page properly establish this fact. The movie’s title also offers a bit of a context clue if you think in biblical terms. God made light on the third day in Genesis, while Jesus rose from the tomb on the third day in the New Testament. The film isn’t preachy in the slightest but considering this during your watch may help you see some parallels at the end.

Cecilia’s story Mementos its way back to the night of the accident throughout the film, retracing her steps and running in circles. This leaves the viewer dizzy and dumbfounded for the first half as they attempt to piece her night back together with very little to go on. De la Vega peppers in scenes of the man involved in the accident torturing another woman we briefly see on the street, but everything seems so wildly disconnected, and the dots are purposefully made not to connect at first. That seems harsh on the audience, especially with adept viewers looking for engagement.  

A veiled creature reaches out his hand in the moonlight in On the 3rd Day
Photo Credit: Shudder

De la Vega has a twenty-plus-year history in film, operating as a camera operator for much of it, and that’s a large part of why On the 3rd Day looks as good as it does. You’ll immediately notice fantastic camera framing on scenes and the frightfully noirish lighting seeping in through windows in the dark, dead of night or nightmarishly fixated over the actors’ eyes. There is an impressive array of art and technical design to look at, but it doesn’t make up for the film’s disjointed nature.  

The second half of the film comes together a lot better, earning On the 3rd Day a slight reprieve. While the first half of the film plays every small clue very close to the chest, the reveal in the finale offers a rather delicious twist. While some may consider traumatic retrograde amnesia something worthy of a telenovela, writers Alberto Fasce and Gonzalo Ventura manage to breathe satisfying gravitas into the movie’s climax and offer strokes of brilliance on some old tropes. 

I found On the 3rd Day to be woefully uneven, but I needed to give it some credit when everything eventually came together. I enjoyed the film’s Carnival of Souls reference and its finale but felt the confusion at the beginning offset much of the resolve. The movie is similar to how Lovecraftian mysteries are often written for the screen, focused on weirdness and the inference that the protagonist is going insane. When the movie ended, I was left comparing it to Shudder’s recent arrival, Offseason. Offseason and On the 3rd Day share very little in common, but the way both story’s characters meander and circle through the story to arrive at their fates feel extraordinarily in sync. If you’re a fan of Lovecraft-inspired films, I welcome you to tell me if you noticed this quality in the movie. For anyone else, watch the film with the subtitles if you can because my viewing left something lost in translation. 

On the 3rd Day is now available to stream on Shudder.  

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Written by Sean Parker

Living just outside of Boston, Sean has always been facinated by what horror can tell us about contemporary society. He started writing music reviews for a local newspaper in his twenties and found a love for the art of thematic and symbolic analysis. Sean joined Horror Obsessive at it's inception, and is currently the site's Creative Director. He produces and edits the weekly Horror Obsessive podcast for the site as well as his interviews with guests. He has recently started his foray into feature film production as well, his credits include Alice Maio Mackay's Bad Girl Boogey, Michelle Iannantuono's Livescreamers, and Ricky Glore's upcoming Troma picture, Sweet Meats.

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