Plot – At the end of the century, Satan visits New York in search of a bride. It’s up to an ex-cop who now runs an elite security outfit to stop him.
Director – Peter Hyams
Released – 1999
Hot off the back of making Jingle All The Way and Batman & Robin, Arnold Schwarzenegger was clearly looking to branch out from the action films that made him famous, instead, looking to not only appear in more family-friendly features but in the case of End of Days, a movie with darker subject-matter, mixing action and demonology in equal measure, star in a something that tonally sits somewhere between Predator and The Exorcist.
First and foremost, a horror film should scare the viewer, or at least create some haunting imagery and to End of Days credit, director Peter Hyams successfully provides the film with plenty of interesting dark imagery and an overall ominous feeling throughout, most effective of which are his shots above the city and gothic overtones, which help to give the film a feeling of evil approaching and getting stronger, reminding me occasionally of Roman Polanski’s The Ninth Gate and Rupert Wainwright’s Stigmata, both of which also came out in 1999, the latter also starring Gabriel Byrne.
Another of the elements that End of Days does well is its exciting fast-pace. The sequence on-board the train is especially entertaining, while the clock ticking down to the millennium through constant reminders via television reports and radio broadcasts was handled extremely well and helped to provide the film with a sense of urgency, holding the viewer’s attention through some of the more ludicrous or less interesting sequences.
End of Days is also able to boast three excellent central performances from Schwarzenegger, Tunney and especially Byrne, who although overacts in places, still manages to portray the perfect level of charm and menace you’d expect from someone possessed by Satan, all without making the character seem too cliched, especially given some of the more outlandish dialogue he is tasked with.
There are, however, some flaws with the film, the most irritating of which being the somewhat cliched ending, which I feel wouldn’t have been the case if it had been made 20 years prior when directors were more prepared to leave audiences with one last shock rather than wrapping everything up in a happy little bow, as seen in Polanski’s Rosemaries Baby, Richard Donner’s The Omen or Robin Hardy’s The Wickerman. Another negative I found stemmed from the uninspired editing choices, especially when it came to the action sequences that were made up of a lot of fast edits that make the scenes feel choppy and sometimes hard to follow, which was somewhat of a surprise given Hyams history of making action thrillers and martial arts flicks.
No one is going to argue that End of Days is the most memorable of movies and arguably in places, it’s downright forgettable, but I can’t help but find it a ton of fun to watch, mainly down to its gothic imagery, sometimes over the top performances and a story that moves at a breakneck pace and even if Jericho is a little one-dimensional, it’s nice to see Arnold Schwarzenegger play a character with a more interesting backstory than the straightlaced family man he is usually given.
If you liked: Sin Eater, The Ninth Gate, Devil