The Day the World Ended (2001)
The Day the World Ended (2001)

Genre: Sci-Fi Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 31 min.

Release Date: November 23rd, 2001 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Terence Gross Actors: Nastassja Kinski, Randy Quaid, Bobby Edner, Harry Groener, Lee de Broux, Stephen Tobolowsky, Debra Christofferson, Kate Fuglei, Kathryn Fiore

 


 

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ew Yorker Dr. Jennifer Stillman (Nastassja Kinski, whose accent comes and goes from scene to scene) continually consults her map, though it doesn’t help much as she drives, haphazardly, through mountainous terrain to the tiny city of Sierra Vista in Nevada. When she arrives, pulling up to a school crosswalk, an odd boy makes piercing eye contact – the first of many unnerving incidents as she soon finds herself unable to fit in with the small-town inhabitants. She’s supposed to be the new therapist for the elementary school, but no one seems welcoming – or even friendly. And Sheriff Ken (Harry Groener) is one of the least affable, needlessly harassing the poor woman, as if conducting some initiation ritual.

Principal Ed Turner (Stephen Tobolowsky) shows Jennifer around, yet he too doesn’t seem to know what she’s doing in Sierra Vista. Alongside bossy nurse Della (Debra Christofferson), the transferring district therapist sets up office space, where Benjamin James McCann (Bobby Edner) is bullied by another student – quickly finding himself in the care of Stillman. The boy doesn’t talk much, nor does his father – town doctor Michael McCann (Randy Quaid) – who isn’t thrilled that a head-shrink has taken an interest in his son. As she gets to know some of the local characters, matters only grow stranger; Ben harbors some dark secrets about his past and the townsfolk don’t like newcomers – especially those who poke around in others’ affairs. “I wouldn’t worry about it.”

As with several of the other films in the Creature Features series, made for Cinemax and borrowing names from American International Pictures releases of the ’50s, this sci-fi/horror endeavor uses a comic book (here, “Alien Worlds”) woven into the story as something of a narrative guide. It also uses notes from old, black-and-white B-movies, viewed in the context of the film, to foreshadow monstrous elements. And those gooey, frightful things are brought to life by the great Stan Winston studio.

The budget for this particular entry feels more limited than that of its ambitious brethren, however, appearing noticeably like a made-for-television undertaking. Nevertheless, moments of graphic violence (eyeballs bulging from their sockets is a particularly engaging design) are both creative and fittingly executed, while the man-in-a-suit creature is amusing, even if it’s routinely obscured for the sake of not revealing its unconvincing qualities. Incredulity from adults nicely complements the otherworldly happenings, while a body count accrues and the townspeople panic – before gathering up their pitchforks. But the plot is a little too simplistic and fast to overcome the natural disbelief; its suspension doesn’t have time to take effect. As a result, the climax (alternately tense and cheesy) doesn’t have much gravity either, though the various revelations pose ideas that could be – and have been – repurposed to greater degrees of monster-movie competency.

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10