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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Supernatural > Action > Comedy > End Of Days (HD-DVD)

End Of Days (HD-DVD)


Picture: B     Sound: B*     Extras: B-     Film: B



Marcus Nispel is now known as the Music Video director who did a mixed (and rather unnecessary) remade of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre a few years ago, but it was the 1999 Arnold Schwarzenegger Horror film End Of Days he was to make his feature debut with.  Horror was a genre Arnold had not tried out yet and looking for a new commercial route to test, signed on.  The screenplay had some humor to it while retaining a Supernatural edge that was becoming increasingly rare.  Too many of such films at the time and to date had become to jokey and outright stupid, so it seemed to be a smart move.


Unfortunately, Nispel had not even begun shooting and was making demands that ranged from bizarre to annoying, including ways he should be communicated with and to keep his refrigerator filled with certain items.  Quickly, it wore thin and Universal had had enough.  Arnold and the studio turned at the last minute to the reliable and solid filmmaker Peter Hyams, known for great action films like Outland, Capricorn One, Narrow Margin and The Star Chamber to work in a genre he had rarely touched.  His closest was the interesting monster flick The Relic, which has a small following.


With Hyams on board, the film got made and though it was not a huge blockbuster, the film was a moderate hit and has become a film that has slowly increased its fan base.  As well, it has become the Arnold film people who do not like Arnold find themselves surprised they like.  For all intents and purposes, it subverts the usual fare Arnold was known for and is easily one of the few Supernatural Horror films of the 1990s anyone is going to remember years from now.


Gabriel Byrne is very good as an embodiment of Satan arriving in New York City to cause new havoc.  For reasons sexual and otherwise, he has decided to target a beautiful young woman (Robin Tunney as one of Arnold’s best female leads to date) as part of a new reign of terror upon the world.  The Andrew W. Marlowe screenplay capitalizes with the past successes of the best films in the cycle (Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, The Omen, The Shining) knowing the audience knows that as much as any of the genre’s clichés.  Then, unlike just about anyone else writing such films in the last 15 years, knows and understands what they are, what to do with them and how to run with them.


Two failed Exorcist prequels were made in recently since on top of all those awful remake guttings and those who enjoyed this film have all new reasons to recommend it.  It is ultimately coy about the situations and thanks to a great supporting cast in great form that includes Kevin Pollak, genre favorite Udo Kier, Miriam Margolyes and the late, great Rod Steiger, the film has a great mix of laughs, chills and even crazy action sequences as Arnold plays a former policeman who has to find a way to stop Satan!


Of course, this would not have been made after the events of 9/11 and has a new charm because of it.  Like Darren McGavin’s Carl Kolchak before him, he has to figure out just in time how to fight the seemingly unbeatable and that alone makes the film more and more interesting. 


The 2.35 X 1 1080p digital High Definition image was shot by Hyams himself on real 35mm film, pushing the limits of film light and darkness.  Despite shooting in Super 35 instead of real anamorphic Panavision, the result is an impressive, one of a kind work that puts the hundreds of digital (and some film) productions in the genre that have the tired, color-gutted, definition-gutted, choppy, badly edited garbage that has tried to pass for good genre work to shame.  The regular DVD and 12” LaserDisc editions of this film when it first hit home video just could not cut it for the complex cinematography Hyams came up with.


A version in the brief-lived D-VHS format was reportedly an improvement, but few copies were made and few saw it that way.  Now, we have this HD-DVD and it is an improvement as expected, but there are Video Red issues and some minor flaws that indicate that this is likely the same older digital HD master used for the D-VHS version.  These earlier HD masters have some technical and visual limits simply because they were early masters.  Still, outside of a film print, this is the only other way to really appreciate what Hyams pulled off in look and atmosphere.  The film becomes more involving and I believe it will be an early favorite in the format as it becomes more talked about and discovered.


The three Terminator films have been issued with three different soundtracks.  MGM’s rather basic Blu-ray of the first film has a 5.1 PCM 16bit/48kHz remix, Lionsgate’s Blu-ray Terminator 2 (reviewed elsewhere on this site) has the great DTS ES remix from the previous DTS DVD set and Warner’s HD-DVD of Terminator 3 (a review upcoming) has Dolby Digital Plus but no DTS or Dolby True HD.


Universal has upgraded the sound here, which was originally a DTS theatrical release at its best, to Dolby TrueHD.  The standard Dolby Digital 5.1 sound that never did the film justice is also included, but both versions seem to be missing some of the surrounds I seem to remember from the original DTS theatrical mix.  *Since top rate equipment is not yet available for Dolby TrueHD sound, we will revisit this title at a later date to take a second listen to the mix, but the Dolby TrueHD does not make it sound better than the Terminator sequels as you might expect.  More on this soon.


Extras include a solid commentary track by Hyams, Music Videos by Everlast and Rob Zombie, the original theatrical trailer, visual effects featurette, on location featurette and Book Of Revelations featurette.  It would be nice if a new extra had been put together, but that is still not bad and more than enhances one of the more interesting Horror films (or Arnold pictures) you are likely to see.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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