There is a fine line when it comes to horror films these days. Producers aren’t content with just having a straight up horror any more. Lines have to be blurred, boundary have to be broken. And all these films pave the way for others, which join them in their own little sub category of the genre. End Of Days along with Bless The Child, The Ninth Gate, Seen, What Lies Beneath, The St. Francisville Experiment and The Sixth Sense all have one thing in common. They are not your typical horror film but it is the subject matter which draws in the horror audience. (The first three being of satanic and cult nature, with the last three being more supernatural).
So what does End Of Days have to do with horror then I hear you ask? Simple, the film is about the rising of Satan before the millennium is out and trying to find the ‘chosen one’ who will bare his child. Sinister, Satanic conspiracies are the name of the game here, which I’m sure you’ll agree is horror enough. Jericho (Schwarzenegger) is the cop that lands himself in the middle of a religious war. Christine (Tunney) is the ‘chosen one’, she who – if Satan gets his hands on her- will bare the Prince Of Darkness’s child and bring the world to an end. So Jericho has six days before the new millennium to save her and the world.
Whether casting Arnold Schwarzenegger as the lead role in this type of film was the right choice is still debatable. After all it’s not your usually big muscle action flick. Not being a big fan of Arnold’s is the main reason that I put off watching this film for so long. But not to be prejudice he did pull of a convincing job. Whether his contract had anything to do with the seemingly out of place mission at the start of the film remains to be seen. And I’m sure the only reason he agreed to the film is because he could play with be guns. Which he does, albeit in his typical over the top fashion. Robin Tunney played the helpless victim with all the grace and despair needed to hold the film together, and she played surprisingly well along side Schwarzenegger. But the starring role goes to the ever-brilliant Gabriel Byrne. (Strangely enough, he played Satan in End Of Days and portrayed a priest in Stigmata in the same year.) The confrontation scene between Jericho and The Man is a brilliant display of what good actors can really do. Byrne dug deep in to his bag of tricks and brought out the much-needed ominous prescience, which we hadn’t seen since The Usual Suspects. And speaking of The Usual Suspects, Kevin Pollack was perfectly cast as the down to earth, typical American, which was the balance the film desperately needed.
The one thing that you notice about End Of Days is that it is full of fire. Nearly every scene has something blowing up. After all it is a film about Hell so there has to be some fire in it. This is where the ‘blurring of lines’ comes in, if it weren’t for the fire would this film have been any more horror and less action or would it have been any good? Peter Hyams (who two years prior brought us The Relic) clearly sets his intentions from the start and does not let up until the very end. The cinematography is vivid and imaginative and still manages to keep with the serious nature of the film. With only a small plot hole, in a film about the near end of the world, there are few people in the city that actually realize what is going on, even though there is a hell of a lot of explosions going on.
What many find refreshing about this film is that it doesn’t depict Satan as an actual being but as a spirit that possesses other. Along the lines of The Frighteners. And I feel that it is this way that the subject is not ridiculed as has been done in other films. The overall message of the film is that you must have faith. Not surprising since it is a religious film. Jericho must find faith to defeat Satan “only a pure heart can defeat pure evil” and Christine must have faith in Jericho to save here. Not giving away the ending but this film is a first for Arnie when the credits role.
Not quite your typical horror film but still worth watching none the less. If you are an Arnie fan then you wont be too disappointed with his acting, even if it is just the fact that he can only really portray one character in every film. For an Apocalyptic drama this is a little too action packed, but too many emotions for an all out action film. A pleasant mix of genres, which should leave you entertained, but little else.