Thirty Day Movie Challenge: Day Twenty-Six

I’m still determined to be finished with this by the end of 2011. Useless, completely unwarranted and unreasonable depression aside, I’m ready to move on, and I’m hoping to actually do that.

The fact that the year is almost over is just a coincidence. I’ve been ready for substantial change for a long time, and I’ll make a decent move of some kind as soon as I can. It’s just a question of when, and if it just happens to be in the opening moments of 2012, then that’s just the way it’s going to be.

Coincidences, I promise you. I still actively loathe and try to avoid New Year’s resolutions.

And Jesus, are these some weird, intense thoughts to play around with on a relatively quiet Christmas Eve. It’s probably best for everyone, if we just head into the first of the final five reviews for the Thirty-Day (well, a day or two more than thirty at this juncture) Challenge.

Let’s save the intense stuff for Valentine’s Day.

Or something.

I don’t know. Let’s just save it for some other time.

I’m actually in a passable mood at the moment.

**********
30 Day Movie Challenge

Day Twenty-Six: Movie You’re Embarrassed to Say You Like

End of Days (1999)
Directed by: Peter Hyams
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gabriel Byrne, Robin Tunney

There’s something vaguely perverse about having a movie list that includes both Seven Samurai and one of the worst movies to ever star a Governor of California (“one of” being the key phrase there). It’s kind of funny to me. I can’t lie. It’s not something I set out to do on purpose. This movie didn’t make the cut, out of a need to create a list that looks an awful lot like an extremely pretentious mental patient ran through it. I just strive to be completely honest in my selections, and this movie, like it or not, must be included on a list that features films by people like Jonathan Demme, Lars Von Trier and Akira Kurosawa.

In case anyone’s curious, End of Days currently holds an eleven-percent approval rating out of ninety-eight reviews. I don’t anticipate it being one of those films that magically find an audience later on down the line. You could probably fit the number of people who remember it onto a single Greyhound bus. You could then cut that number considerably by just keeping those who are willing to admit they liked it.

I do like it. I like it the way I like certain aspects of the bondage community. I’ve got too much in my life that deserves my sense of shame. Life is too short to include movies in that. The idea of being embarrassed by a movie you like is as inane to me as the guilty pleasure category.

But man oh man, does End of Days come awfully close to proving me wrong.

It’s not like I can blame liking this movie on youthful stupidity (I was a fan of Insane Clown Posse when I was fourteen, so anything was possible). I vividly remember watching this the night it premiered on HBO, and then immediately confronting the reality of having just seen one of the worst movies of all time, and yet somehow still feeling as though it was not time wasted.

It also gave my youngest brother nightmares, so that was a nice, sadistic windfall.

Nothing about this movie represents a better time in my life. I’m pretty sure I was even more miserable at fourteen than I am now. There isn’t some memory of watching it with a long-gone friend or family member. I can’t remember a single detail from the day. Yet if it comes on TV (and it does, because it apparently qualifies as one of AMC’s “classics”) I will indeed sit down and watch it. Why? What the hell for? At best, it’s a B-movie idea that sounded like it could at least be ridiculous, dumb ass fun on paper. Instead, it couldn’t even accomplish that, and wound up being a career low-point for almost everyone involved. Almost everyone, because as much as I like Rod Steiger and Udo Kier, calling this a career low-point for them is saying an awful lot.

It’s not even very good by the standards of its leading man.

So, why watch it now?

I think this movie is hilarious. It’s the only explanation I can think of. A concept this absurd played so humorlessly is just funny to me. Rod Steiger and Udo Kier were both old hats at this kind of garbage by 1999, and Steiger is sadly no longer with us, but the rest of what’s mostly a pretty good cast (Robin Tunney and Gabriel Byrne) were clearly struggling to find something that could salvage this wreck of an idea. They fail, but watching them try is still entertaining. It’s like watching an eighty-million-dollar Ed Wood production.

He closes the hand, opens it again and delights a child with a shiny, red ball.

It’s a funny movie. That’s the only argument I can come up with, as to why I sat through this movie once and have actually sat through it a couple of times since. Gabriel Byrne as Satan is not a terrible casting decision, and I love how seriously he expresses some of the worst lines ever written for Satan. I love the deliriously stupid, over-the-top (even for one of Schwarzenegger’s movies) finale. I love the idea of Kevin Pollack being a minion of Hell, and also just the general concept that he could ever be a threat to anybody or anything. I even love the idea that we’re expected to be sympathetic towards Robin Tunney’s character in spite of the fact that she gives one of the most annoying performances of her career (and I like Robin Tunney). I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know I was ready to turn her over to the forces of evil after about three minutes.

CCH Pounder pops up at some point. Pounder is a great actress who is capable of a lot more than the roles she usually gets. Then there’s Kier and Steiger. Both were often a sole saving grace of many an awful horror film. Unfortunately, with End of Days he doesn’t get a whole lot of screen time.

Best (or worst) of all is Schwarzenegger. I actually like some of his films a great deal, and will defend them as good movies for what they are, but it’s hard to believe even he could be this hammy, this comical. It’s not that he’s even trying to do something as an actor he’s never done before. The best of his movies are the ones that have a lot of other good things going for them. He’s not a guy who can salvage a truly awful movie all on his own. It’s almost sad watching him try to do that here.

There is scarcely an original thought or filmmaking quality in End of Days that gives it a chance of finding redemption along the lines of what Schwarzenegger’s character finds at the end (Sorry to ruin it for you). It’s a wretched mishmash of religious insanity, bad filmmaking, unintentionally hilarious performances and action sequences that fail to provide any real excitement.

Arnold looks intense as always. Kevin just looks kind of sleepy.

But then it comes back to the whole thing about finding this movie funny. It’s one of those contradictory movies that are so bad that I can’t help but love the ugly bastard anyway. Everyone has those movies on their lists. This is one of mine. And like most people I can’t offer up much in the way of a logical reason for why that is. I can only shrug and laugh my ass off every time Arnold battles Byrne in a battle of spiritual wits. As far as I can tell I’m the only winner.

I’m also pretty sure this is the only Schwarzenegger movie in history to feature a threesome between a mother, a daughter and The Devil. I don’t know. I’ve never seen that secret director’s cut of Twins.

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    • Rula Mazigi
    • January 3rd, 2012

    HAhaha this was a funny review, as funny as the movie probably was if I could remember even a 1/4 of it. It’s one of those movies I might put on in the background when cleaning my house or room and nothing better is on…I think I have to look more closely at this challenge of yours and see what other movies you have on here…there are SO many movies I’m (not so terribly) embarassed that I actually like…but embarassed that I have watched many times 😉 Nice.

    • Rula Mazigi
    • January 3rd, 2012

    Wait…I didn’t mean that your review was as funny (terrible) as the movie was or that I am embarassed I read it – just wanted to clarify that point hahaha 😉

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