END OF DAYS - The best New Year's Eve horror film, period
1999 was a scary time.
There was uncertainty in the streets as people prepared for an impending Y2K bug that promised to wipe out the world’s technology and send humanity spiraling back to the stone age. At the stroke of midnight, we were going to have to look to The Flintstones for tips on turning our pets into household appliances.
If it wasn’t the nerds freaking out, it was the religious fanatics who, unaware of how decades or centuries actually work, thought the year 2000 represented the end of an era and a surefire starting pistol for the end times.
Even worse, in 1999 one of our nation’s favorite adopted sons was suffering a near-complete career meltdown. Arnold Schwarzenegger had not had a blockbuster action hit in years — leaving the world unguarded against Eastern European terrorists and robots from the future. Needing to give his career a booster shot and, looking to tie into some of the fervor that was surrounding the impending new year, Schwarzenegger sought to make his big return to the world of action films. And what better baddie to tussle with then the ultimate villain — Old Scratch.
END OF DAYS is a 1999 action horror film that pits Schwarzenegger against Satan, as played by Gabriel Byrne. It's loud, silly and a whole heaping plate of stupid fun - it even has a sex scene scored to the music of Limp Bizkit. But END OF DAYS is also the ultimate New Year’s Eve horror movie — perfect for watching as you count down the end of one year and begin to reminisce all the mistakes you made the previous. It's the epitome of getting a new year started off on the right cloven foot.
Schwarzenegger stars as Jericho Cane, a depressed, suicidal personal security guard who finds himself wrapped up in Satan’s plot to impregnate the young woman destined to be his bride. Robin Tunney, who in THE CRAFT famously compared the Wiccan religion to the field God and Satan play football on, co-stars as Christine York, Satan’s pre-destined baby mamma. All this is secondary to the chance to see Schwarzenegger growl one-liners to Satan and witness Kevin Pollak being engulfed in flames when he steps into explosive, Satanic urine.
END OF DAYS is the type of movie that not only believes in sound and fury over substance but pisses all over substance and then goes on to have a three-way with sound, fury, and substance’s mother. It's a movie in which Udo Keir is not the weirdest cast member. It's a film where Arnold Schwarzenegger tells Rod Steiger: "Between your faith and my Glock nine millimeter, I'll take the Glock." It’s the type of movie that hires Stan Winston to design an amazing looking Satan and then has it appear almost completely invisible except for 45 seconds at the very end of the movie.
(Caveat: Satan looks incredibly awesome in those 45 seconds, though — like a cross between the giant worm demon from THE GATE and a Todd McFarlane toy that was never made.)
Sure, END OF DAYS is the film equivalent of rabbit meat - it tastes great but if you eat too much of it, you're going to shit yourself to death - but that doesn’t mean it’s not a whole lot of fun! Sometimes you want a horror movie that’s going to reach into your soul and shake the very foundations of your beliefs and scare you to your core. But sometimes you just want to eat a KFC Famous Bowl and sit on the toilet for forty-five minutes picking your nose.
END OF DAYS is a stupid horror movie but it’s my favorite stupid horror movie about New Year’s Eve.
In December 2018, at the year's final screening I did as part of the Alamo Drafthouse Houston's Graveyard Shift weekly horror film series, I programmed END OF DAYS. Being able to share this special movie with an audience meant commemorating the night with something special. In honor of the film, I brought a blender on stage and, in front of the audience, recreated the morning snack that Schwarzenegger makes for himself at the beginning of END OF DAYS. The Schwarzenegger Smoothie, if you're looking to make it at home, consists of pizza, coffee, beer, antacid and Chinese food, blended together into a creamy paste.
After sipping a shot of this concoction with the dozen or so brave souls willing to join me in a toast, I came very close to throwing up on stage. It was a transcendent experience.