Every 80s action star got one – their own hybrid of shoot ’em up and horror. Both Charles Bronson and Steve McQueen started in B-horror movies – House of Wax and The Blob, respectively. Stallone hunted a cult of serial killers in Cobra. Years later Jason Statham tangled with Ghosts of Mars before re-visiting the genre in The Meg. Not surprisingly, when Arnold Schwarzenegger finally took his turn with horror he went bigger than his colleagues. Not only did he take on the Y2K moral panic but he also battled the Devil. By 1999, however, the movie landscape had changed and Schwarzenegger’s box office power diminished. The result – End of Days fizzled with audiences and critics alike.
As the millennium approaches, the Catholic Church learns a centuries old prophecy is at hand. Satan himself has risen, seeking a bride to conceive the Antichrist in the hour before midnight on December 31st, 1999. That young woman, Christine York, finds herself hunted by Satan’s followers and members of the Church who would rather see her dead than the prophecy unfold. Only a washed-up former cop, Jericho Cane, can save Christine and stop the end of the world.
End of Days’ Prophecy Premise Isn’t the Only Thing That’s Old in the Movie
By the late 1990s, the movie landscape had changed from the action world ruled by Schwarzenegger and Stallone in the 1980s. Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs replaced muscle-bound movies, while Silence of the Lambs distanced horror from the slasher-dominated eighties. When End of Days premiered at the end of 1999 it was following on the heels of The Sixth Sense. And Schwarzenegger’s last few movies – Eraser, Jingle All the Way, and Batman & Robin – watered down his box office draw. All these factors probably likely hurt End of Days’ prospects. Of course, it didn’t help that director Peter Hyams (The Relic) firmly placed the mix of action and horror in the past decade. And not in a nostalgic way.
Of course, it didn’t help that director Peter Hyams (The Relic) firmly placed the mix of action and horror in the past decade.
Too much of End of Days’ action feels rooted in 80s sensibilities. Hyams dutifully checks of a handful of tropes. From the name ‘Jericho Cane’ to Schwarzenegger’s ‘outsider former cop’ role to the wisecracking sidekick, End of Days feels like a movie out of time. That’s not to say there aren’t a few fun moments. Watching Schwarzenegger unload his usual arsenal – including a rocket launcher – on the Devil elicits a few laughs. Unfortunately, Hyams probably wasn’t aiming for a satirical vibe. Aside from its action missteps End of Days also never gels with its horror elements. Hyams’ horror vision matches his big 80s action sensibilities, but the special effects fall far short. Even in 1999, the same year that saw The Matrix revolutionize action scenes, End of Days often looks hokey. There’s some Rated-R violence, but it’s more Commando than Candyman.
End of Days Wastes Schwarzenegger’s Charisma in Dour Role
Another problem with End of Days is its star. Though no one was ever going to mistake Schwarzenegger for an Oscar winner, he’s always oozed charisma on the screen. And End of Days never lets that Schwarzenegger show up. Yes, the ‘Austrian Oak’ flexes his action bona fides, but it always feels a bit ridiculous watching him duke it out with the Devil. It’s a big step up from fighting a Predator. Writer Andrew W Marlowe sticks Schwarzenegger in stereotype of a character that – like the rest of the movie – belongs in the 1980s. By and large, it’s a dour and humorless role.
And End of Days never lets [that] Schwarzenegger show up.
But if someone looks like they’re having fun in End of Days it’s Gabriel Byrne. As the Devil himself, Byrne makes the most of Marlowe’s hackneyed dialogue exuding both charisma and menace. In fact, in a horror hybrid missing scares, Byrne rises above the material giving End of Days an actual bit of a danger. CCH Pounder (Demon Knight) and Kevin Pollack are fine in roles in which they could sleepwalk. Pollack has played the sidekick to big stars n other big movies. As for Robin Tunney (The Craft), she has little to do here other than scream and look frightened when required.
End of Days a Decade Too Late
Ultimately, End of Days faces a tough uphill battle if it ever wants to obtain cult status. Horror fans won’t find much to appreciate. In spite of some R-rated violence, the movie’s treatment of its subject feels hokey without ever being unintentionally funny. Even diehard 80s action fans won’t find much to enjoy, There’s a handful of decent action scenes early in the movie. Nonetheless, End of Days still looks long in the tooth – a movie released a decade too late.