Never before has a security personnel had this much unrestrained power. Jericho Cane – a former cop now working in private security – storms through End of Days with less check and balances than the president, entering crime scenes, stealing and hiding evidence from the police and conducting his own investigation of key witnesses without ever more than a cursory comment from the deputy. At the start of a film, Cane hangs off the bottom of a helicopter flying over downtown Manhattan, and towards the end, he stops by his work and leaves toting a grenade launcher. I understand he’s guarding high-risk and/or wealthy individuals, but I’m pretty sure even the president’s secret service doesn’t have access to that type of military-grade weapon (a quick Google search confirms the secret service use primarily pistols, along with some shotguns and submachine guns, but no grenade launchers).
Why can Cane get away with such flagrant violation of both law and logic? Well, because he’s played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. It doesn’t matter what role Arnold Schwarzenegger is playing; somehow, someway he’ll end up gunning down bad guys in extravagantly ridiculous action set pieces. That’s why he’s there. He could be playing a burger flipper and he’d still manage to find a rocket launcher behind the deep fryer. In fact, the inclusion of Schwarzenegger goes a long way to explaining not just the plot holes in End of Days, but the muddled mash of both the horror and action genres. The storyline is standard religious horror: Satan millennially returns to Earth in human-form in an attempt to procreate and seed a spawn. If he does so before the clock hits the thousand-year-mark (in other words, before New Years in any new millennium), he unleashes the Armageddon. There’s a specific woman he must impregnate – for some reason or another – and Satan and his minions seek out the young lady, whilst meanwhile a group of priests attempt to assassinate her before Satan can get his hands (and other parts) on her.
However, the inclusion of Schwarzenegger dictates that action formula will follow despite a plot better-suited to horror. So – as Jericho Cane – Schwarzenegger is sucked in to the Satan spawn scenario and with him plenty of action familiars. There’s the aforementioned helicopter stunt, battles with armed assassin-priests, a fist-fight with a demonically-powered old lady and a stupefying number of shoot-outs with Satan considering he’s immune to man-made weaponry. It’s a bizarre amalgamation of both horror and action, with both the scares and thrills suffering significantly. Too much time is devoted to Schwarzenegger’s action antics to focus on any scares or generate the potentially-frightening plot. Among the scariest moments is a subway encounter with a freakish-looking albino (who then shatters into pieces like glass along with any generated scares) and a sex-scene where Satan simultaneously screws both a mother and her (of age) daughter, whose bodies morph together for some reason never explained.
On the action front, the largest dilemma is that Satan just doesn’t suit the conventions of the action genre. While a villain that presents too little of a challenge can be particularly un-thrilling, the opposite can be just as problematic: that is, a villain who has almost unlimited power. Pitting a security personnel up against the Lord of the Underworld just isn’t believable – even in the universe of an over-the-top action flick – and both plot-holes and concessions of logic become a necessity to keep the story moving along on typical action course. End of Days goes to significant lengths to make it clear that Satan – being the nigh invincible figure that he is – cannot be harmed by any weaponry, even while in his human-form. Yet this is an Arnie-action film and thus needs the requisite gun-fights, so scene-after-scene Schwarzenegger shoots at Satan with guns, and grenade launchers, and so on – and of course scene-after-scene Satan is flung to the floor, picks himself up and sets off after our hero as if he’s just been toppled over playfully rather than riddled with bullets. It’s not just repetitive, but almost entirely nonsensical. Similarly, a variety of fundamental story issues have been ignored to keep Satan from simply dicing Jericho Cane into countless pieces as he would in real life. For instance, early on in the film we see Satan in his true-form, a CGI, translucent flying-lizard that can zip through the air at high-speeds and ignite explosions. Then the next two-hours-plus is spent with Satan chasing around Schwarzenegger in a middle-aged man’s body, which is assumingly why he can never seem to catch Schwarzenegger. Why wouldn’t Satan ditch this body for a few seconds and simply blow Schwarzenegger up? In another scene Satan magically appears in Schwarzenegger’s apartment, which raises the question of why he wouldn’t just magically appear next to Schwarzenegger instead of chasing him around on foot for the entire running-length? Along with limitless power come many limitless inconsistencies, purposely designed to keep the story moving.
When it comes to scares or thrills or any of the things we as an audience normally expect of a good horror or action film, End of Days constitutes a complete failure. Nonetheless, End of Days does work on another level, a level that typically even the worst of Schwarzenegger’s films operates on. This is the type of film where every other sentence is a one-liner and the plots lack of logic is compensated with much ensuing absurdity. Despite any attempts at genuine scares or thrills falling short, End of Days never ceases to be entertaining, and this makes up for many of its shortfalls. There’s something very hard to hate about Arnold Schwarzenegger being tossed around by an overweight old lady (albeit a possessed one) or randomly blending day-old pizza and drinking it. Plus, any movie which has Arnie telling the devil himself that he’s a “fucking choir boy” can’t be all bad. End of Days is absurd, ridiculous, and downright dumb for the most part, but it’s also quite a bit of fun. If you’re looking for an Oscar-winner, hell, if you’re looking for something semi-coherent, skip it, but if you want something that will keep you entertained for two-hours, it’s worth a watch. And despite all its flaws, that’s more than you can say of most horror films.