14 July 2002 | Bogey Man
Surprisingly effective horror action
Peter Hyams' End of Days stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as a fired and alcoholic police officer, who is on the edge of sanity and tries to commit suicide very often. He is now private security guard and traps a mysterious sniper who tried to kill one of his clients. Soon he learns that there are some very bad things going on in the city, and the new millennium is very close..It is the last days of December, 1999.
I really liked the scare department in this demonic little horror thriller from this talented director and director of photography, Peter Hyams. This film is full of effective and very ominous images and scenery and the film is very dark. I appreciate perhaps most the shots above the city and the twisted use of camera up there. That really creates a feeling of evil and that something very powerful and wicked is "above the city" and is about to get power. Hyams once again shows his talent as he has been the director of photography many times earlier in his own films. End of Days reminded me occasionally of Alex de la Iglesia's great horror film El Dia de la Bestia (Day of the Beast), a brilliant mix of black comedy and VERY dark imagery and atmosphere. As incredible as it sounds, this mainstream produced film is that effective, thanks to the talented men behind the camera.
There are some flaws, too, and the most irritating things is perhaps the cliche ending, which I definitely won't spoil here, but is without a doubt there only to satisfy the audience and create the safe and familiar Happy Ending. If this was made 20 years ago, the ending would definitely have been different; it would've been how the director wanted to, not hot the audience wanted to. That tones the otherwise great and exciting finale a little bit down, but fortunately it is not as syrupy as possible. Another negative thing that I can tell is the editing which is very fast, unstylishly and ineffectively fast and restless. Fast edits can be great elements if used right and with skill, but in this film, they are in my opinion gratuitously fast and too plenty. Just watch the action scenes and count how many edits there are in one minute. The editors should have realized that sometimes - and in this case - less is more. These "flaws" are still tolerable especially when I keep in mind how many positive points there are in this film.
End of Days is also very exciting and fast paced. The train segment is great and especially the clock ticking finale when the millennium is about to change, is very skillfully created and hold my full attention. The finale is pretty similar to the finale in Kathryn Bigelow's own millennium related film, a paranoid and effective thriller Strange Days (1995). In End of Days, there are also couple of genuinely frightening, scary, sudden and loud "shocks" that require a movie theatre to fully work. The nightmare sequences are also chillingly original and brought to my mind the great horror classics that even Hollywood sometimes produced. The demon which Christine sees in her dreams is very scary and almost as frightening as the similar character in David Lynch's masterwork Lost Highway.
As a horror film, End of Days works fine and creates an atmosphere that is so rare in mainstream films nowadays. I didn't have any expectations when I placed the VHS in my VCR, and so I was pleasantly surprised of what I saw and experienced. If we stay in the 90's, I could say that End of Days is kind of tamer version of Day of the Beast and without its comic elements. There are comic elements in End of Days, too, but those are not, fortunately, the usual Hollywood one-liners and stupid bits of dialogue. Gabriel Byrne over-acts occasionally little, but many guys who play devils seem to have this problem! He is almost as "cool and modern" devil as Al Pacino in Taylor Hackford's Devil's Advocate, a film which also has great atmosphere but is more restrained and drama oriented.
End of Days gets 7/10 from me. Great work again Peter!