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End of Days (1999)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 8/26/2008

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/25/2008

As he's currently retired from films, let's assume for the moment that Arnold Schwarzenegger is done with acting. (Insert obligatory "When did he start acting?" joke here.) The man is thought of a big movie star, and there's no doubt that he's been in some huge movies. But, if one examines the end of his career, there are some forgettable films on his resume. Terminator 3 aside, Schwarzenegger's last two starring roles were The 6th Day and Collateral Damage. Given that he was one of the biggest stars in the world, I guarantee that there are people who have never heard of those movies. Before these two films, Arnold made what is arguably the worst film of his career as a star, End of Days.

It's December 1999 in New York City, and the world is preparing for the end of the millennium. Twenty years earlier, a child, bearing a strange mark, was born. The Vatican has been searching for the girl, for it has been prophesized that she will be impregnated with the Devilís child in the last hour before the start of a new century. Satan arrives in New York and possesses the body of a man (Gabriel Byrne). Persona security guards Jericho Cane (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Bobby Chicago (Kevin Pollak) (Are they serious with these names?) are assigned to protect this man. When an assassin attempts to kill the man, Jericho is surprised to find that the assailant is a priest. Investigating the priestís shabby home, they find a picture of a young woman. That woman, Christine York (Robin Tunney), is the object of Satanís desire. Jericho soon finds Christine and stumbles into a world where priests do battle with Satanists. Will this professional bodyguard be able to protect Christine until the stroke of midnight on the 31st?

I can only imagine that the thought process behind End of Days went something like this, ďPeople are already terrified about Y2K, so letís throw in The Omen for good measure If that sounds like an odd combination, it's only an indication of how uneven and confused this movie is.

I don't know much about the making of End of Days (and this release isn't helping), but I know that the script had been around for a while before it was finally produced. I can't help but wonder if the script went through changes once Arnold was attached, because here we have an apocalyptic horror film, complete with all of the trappings...which also happens to be an action movie. There's nothing wrong with mixing genres, but they simply don't gel here. This movie contains a scene in which a Satanic cult sacrifices a snake in order to feed its blood to a baby and a scene in which Schwarzenegger jumps out of a helicopter. I felt as if I were channel-surfing.

And then we have the story itself. With the end of the millennium approaching, it was most likely irresistible to make a movie with a plot like this, and the countdown to the new year is a good plot device. However, the bulk of the movie plays like a rehashing of Rosemary's Baby, The Omen, The Seventh Sign, and The Eighteenth Angel, as it contains all of the cliches from biblical horror movies. Speaking of cliches, how many times have we seen the alcoholic ex-(fill in the blank) who has lost his faith due to a tragedy. In addition, this is yet another movie where the evil powers don't make any sense. Satan can take over the body of a man, cloud the minds of others to do his bidding, and yet he has to torture people to learn Christine's location. Wouldn't he simply know this?

The oddest thing about End of Days is the presence of Arnold himself. Sure, he's made some very violent movies, but this film has a sheen darkness and slime which is palpable. There is no levity to the movie and it only seems to exist to show people being tortured. The film gets no help from yet another film from Director Peter Hyams which is far too dark. It was surprising to see "The Terminator" in this movie nearly a decade ago, and it's even more surprising to see "The Governator" in it today.

End of Days watches the ball drop on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 17 Mbps. For the most part, the image is sharp and clear. And while this HD transfer is kinder to Hyams' dark photography than DVD and VHS could have ever been, the picture is still dark, and thus the sharpness is often difficult to determine. The image does show minor defects from the source material, in the form of black and white dots on the picture. The colors which emerge from the darkness look good, especially reds. The picture is detailed and long shots through the New York City streets have nice depth. The Disc offers a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 4.8 kHz and an average of 4.5 Mbps. This track provide clear dialogue and sound effects. Say what you will about this movie (and I did) or the video, but the audio is very, very good. Simply go to the assassination attempt scene and you will find the roar of a helicopter filling the front and rear channels, while ricocheting bullets zip through the speakers. All of this is punctuated by deep bass notes from the music. The amount of detail in the sound here is excellent and the way in which we can hear so many distinct sounds at one time is very impressive.

The only special feature on the End of Days Blu-ray Disc is an AUDIO COMMENTARY by Director Peter Hyams, who sounds a lot like Gene Hackman. While he leaves some notable gaps in his talk, Hyams does keep things moving. I was very surprised when he said "I've been accused many times of making things too dark." and "I'm in love with shadow." Of course, he didn't admit that it was a flaw, but it was good to hear him say it. He does talk a lot about how the film was shot, but he also comments on the actors and the locations. However, there's not a great deal of attention given to the story.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long