Quick! Before we start celebrating “The Holidays,” let’s celebrate some fictional End Times, shall we?
Break out the champagne and popcorn, because November 24 is the 20th anniversary of End of Days, Gabriel Byrne’s foray into mischief-making, mayhem, and devilry!
Ordinarily, I would now present you with glowing reviews and positive comments from the time of the film’s premiere. Unfortunately, there are none to be had, because this film just did not find favor with critics in 1999. Perhaps they were all too distracted by fear of the looming apocalypse that was Y2K. It’s possible the religious undertones, “bi-polar direction,” and other issues they had with the film proved insurmountable. Or maybe they just weren’t ready for “a drunk suicidal Schwarzenegger” enjoying “a breakfast shake with cold floor-pizza.” That was pretty brutal, it’s true! Almost everyone and everything involved with this film, from director to story to Arnold, came in for very spicy diatribes and rebukes. All except Gabriel Byrne.
Most critics either nodded kindly in his general direction or had strong praise to offer Gabriel’s work as The Man/Satan. I like what Andrew O’Hehir had to say best, partly because I agree with his assessment about “The Satan Problem” :
Now I’m confused. Can firearms hurt Satan — or “The Man,” as he’s identified in the credits to “End of Days” — or not? Sometimes the fallen angel (played here with prodigiously enjoyable brio by Gabriel Byrne) can sort of suck up bullets like candy corn; sometimes you shoot him in the head and he comes lurching and slobbering after you with his brains leaking out, like an extra from a zombie movie. Perhaps I’m being too literal-minded, or my understanding of quantum metaphysics is just too limited. After all, as a beefy priest (Rod Steiger) with many years of experience in battling the Horned One explains to Jericho Cane (Arnold Schwarzenegger), “There are forces at work here you couldn’t possibly comprehend!”
From that point on, Jericho and Christine tear through a series of dripping tunnels, back alleys and lavishly appointed churches, with the well-tailored, bedroom-eyed Byrne not far behind. “End of Days” suffers from what scholars of Milton’s “Paradise Lost” refer to as the Satan problem: Byrne is such a seductive and charismatic Antichrist (not to mention a consummately skillful actor) that you wonder why Christine spends even two minutes with the ponderous, mush-mouthed Jericho.
Well! One is not supposed to fall for the Antichrist, you know!
But if we did, here’s one reason why:
It’s tough when the Prince of Evil arrives in a handsome, talented, and all-too-sexy Irishman package, isn’t it?
You can continue the anniversary celebrations by heading over to the End of Days Mega Movie Page, where you will find screencaps, posters, clips from the film, props, fan art and videos, and lots more.
Don’t be afraid. Satan won’t hurt you. Well, he would, but there was this subway train, you see… wink