Hail, readers! Welcome to Devils in the Details, a monthly column examining the satanic and occult influences in horror. This column provides a non-sensational look at these influences by examining them through the perspective of modern Occult scholarship. The study of satanism and the occult is a life-long endeavor, and I have much yet to learn. I hope you will join me in this sojourn into the darkness!
End of Days (1999) is your typical end-of-millennium action-horror film, one of its contemporaries being The Prophecy (1995). Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as a hired bodyguard who becomes embroiled in a thousand-year prophecy to bring upon the End of Days. Christine York, played by Robin Tunney, is the center of this prophecy, chosen to be the mother to Satan’s child, the Antichrist. Jericho Cane (Schwarzenegger) must protect Christine from Satan himself to prevent the end of the world!
Though the film definitely has horror themes, I would consider the film more of an action film. But what can you expect from a movie starring Schwarzenegger during his heyday? That said, the setup is pretty simple. Because Christine is prophecied to be the mother to Satan’s son, he possesses the body of an unnamed man played by Gabriel Byrne to consummate the relationship. Meanwhile, Christine is plagued by sexy dreams in which they in effect “do the dead.” Coincidentally, Jericho happens to take on the job as this unnamed man’s hired security, putting him in the middle of the two.
End of Days is heavily steeped in Catholic themes and tropes, and as much as I would love to get into the ins and outs of Catholic views of the end times, I will instead focus on more important discussions, namely, Satan’s apparent need to get laid!
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For a film that touts Satan’s evil, the sanctity of life, and the righteousness of justice, there are quite a lot of sexually suggestive scenes. According to the priests, Satan’s lechery is due to the fact that he needs to consummate the relationship with Christine before midnight when the 1000 years are ended, i.e., Y2K. They reference this line from the Book of Revelation:
And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison. Revelation 20:7.
The problem with this line is that it’s taken entirely out of context. The “thousand years” in this line refer to the thousand years following Christ’s reign after the end days. If Satan must impregnate Christine by 11:58 PM on 12/31/1999 (nevermind time zones, maybe they’re going by Gremlins rules?) to bring about the end days, then the thousand years are irrelevant as they would still be yet to come. Unless they are trying to consider the years between 1000 C.E. to 1999 C.E. as the thousand years of Christ’s reign. Regardless, Satan has to get it in by the end of the night, or all of his plans will be foiled, making Jericho the most important cockblock of the millennium.
In all seriousness, though, Byrne’s Satan is one of the best representations. Although archetypal, Byrne plays it cool and collected. More importantly, the philosophies behind this Satan are relatively modern. Rather than focus on Miltonian themes like many films of the time, End of Days instead appears to take queues from LaVeyan themes, albeit likely unintentionally.
How Satan appeals to Jericho is refreshing. He appeals to Jericho’s love of his lost wife and daughter not only by offering to restore his former life but by proposing it was, in fact, God who took them from him. One quote, in particular, stands out, “He could have stopped it. Instead, he fucked you and made you feel guilty. Me, I don’t do guilt.” One of the central tenets of LaVeyan Satanism is indulgence… not compulsion. Later on, he drops the angsty-teenager questioning-their-faith line, “Something good happens, ‘It’s His will.’ Something bad happens, ‘He moves in mysterious ways.'”
Aside from horny Satan and the LaVeyan themes, my favorite part is when Satan gives up the sly con man routine and opts to become a full-on slasher! I have to say that I have never seen Satan depicted in this way, and dare I say we should see many more Satanic/demonic slashers. In a pseudo-Predator effect (fitting for the film’s star), Satan invisibly stalks our protagonists throughout New York and through a tense subway ride. It’s a strange sequence that comes as a mix of action and traditional slasher. While unconventional, it works. Satan’s relentlessness is formidable, though it does make one wonder why Satan cannot accomplish more than chase our protagonists through the city. As much as I might like the guy, seeing Satan blown up by a grenade is something!
In the final confrontation, Satan sheds the destroyed body he had possessed, and after taking on a sick 90s CGI monster form, he possesses Jericho in one last attempt to get down with Christine. Unfortunately for him, Jericho had just renewed his faith allowing him to fight off the possession and sacrifice himself.
“[Gabriel] Byrne’s Satan is one of the best representations. Although archetypal, Byrne plays it cool and collected.”
I really love Satan’s portrayal in End of Days, even if it is not precisely accurate to the source material. It is a fun, fresh take on the Satanic horror movie with plenty of action and no shortage of Schwarzenegger one-liners. The LaVeyan themes run throughout regardless of intention, and although the film portrays Satan as evil, his actions don’t exactly match up (well, unless you count nailing a guy to a ceiling).
What are your thoughts on End of Days? Do you have a favorite Jericho one-liner? Let us know on Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and the Horror Fiends of Nightmare on Film Street Facebook group! And to keep up on all Nightmare on Film Street News, don’t forget to sign up for the Neighborhood Watch!