‘How do you expect to defeat me when you are but a man, and I am forever?‘
Arnold Schwarzenegger is as big a part of my childhood as Bart Simpson or Colin Cramb (find me an article that features those three men in the same sentence and I’ll drop dead of shock). I’ve already dissected Arnie’s career in this article, but there are a few remaining films from his ’80s and ’90s heyday that I have yet to devour. End of Days has been on my list forever, and it was not what I have come to expect from the Austrian Oak…
The devil (Gabriel Byrne) has returned to the earth for some general havoc wreaking and tomfoolery. Jericho (Schwarzenegger) must stop him and save the earth. For some reason, Old Scratch has got a thing for lowly human lady Christine (Robin Tunney). In an even more unlikely turn of events, Jericho is stuck with a schlub for a partner who looks just like comedian Kevin Pollack (dear reader, he is Kevin Pollack).
End of Days dropped in 1999, the third in a trio of critically reviled films along with Jingle All the Way and Batman & Robin, and it is easy to see why it was slammed. Director Peter Hyams doesn’t so much as wear his influences on his sleeve as ground his influences down into a grotesque paste and smear them all over his prone, naked body. Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen, The Devil’s Advocate and Se7en all loom uncomfortably large throughout. By attempting to take the best bits from each, Hyams produces a movie that isn’t in the same league as any of them.
That being said, it is refreshing to see Arnie in an out and out horror film, and while some of the effects really haven’t stood the test of time, there are other moments (as when a guy shatters into glass on the subway) that remain genuinely creepy. The plot is derivative and uninspired, but it’s also fairly compelling in a comforting kind of way, and Schwarzenegger gives his all despite being an uncomfortable fit for the genre. Byrne is more disappointing – phoning it in a little as Lucifer – but Arnie has enough enthusiasm and commitment to carry the film in its more ordinary moments.
This is a film that is very much a product of its time, which is probably why I enjoyed it more than I probably should, but for fans of Arnie, End of Days is a fine addition to one of the more eclectic film canons of the 20th century. Worth a look.