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The Day The World Ended (2001)
Director: Terence Gross

review by Christopher Geary

One of a batch of recent made-for-TV creature features inspired by cult 1950s' horrors, The Day The World Ended (aka: Tod aus dem All) is joined by other 'remake' films: Earth Vs The Spider, She-Creature, How To Make A Monster, and Teenage Caveman. This series of obviously generic but, interestingly, not narrative remakes was co-produced by award-winning effects creator Stan Winston. And, despite the film's judicious use of digital visuals, Winston seems admirably intent on preserving the craft and artistry of monster movie prosthetics and special effects makeup for a CGI-obsessed 21st century, while (of course) keeping his own studio crews in work. The result is standard SF-horror fare with brooding atmosphere, satisfactory monster design and good quality creature effects, though it's somewhat lacking in ambition or imagination...
   This updated version of Roger Corman's first SF movie discards the main plot of its 1956 source (an intriguing tale, concerning the survivors of a nuclear apocalypse gathering in a bomb shelter, which has been critically reviewed as a biblical allegory), opting instead for the rather simpler SF premise about an 'orphan' boy with psychic powers waiting for the return of his absentee father. Nastassja Kinski plays big city psychotherapist Jennifer Stillman, who joins the initially hostile staff of a rural elementary school, and immediately realises there's a serious psych problem with youngster, Ben (Bobby Edner), who's been adopted by local Dr McCann (Randy Quaid). Ben is the key to a dark and morbid secret being kept by nearly everyone in the close-knit if largely antisocial community. Soon, skeletons are dragged kicking and screaming from the town's collective closet in surreal, impressionistically blurry flashbacks, and there are violent scenes of murderous rage when a hideous alien stalker emerges from nearby woodlands. Can outsider Jennifer outwit the Sheriff's witch-hunt and save troubled Ben from the haunting memories of his mother's death? Is McCann a suitable 'replacement' father, or is he the worst of all the small-minded townspeople? Who will get their face ripped off next?
   Effectively a classy B-movie, well directed by Terence Gross, The Day The World Ended boasts two (or three, if you count the pre-teen Edner) good central performances from Kinski and Quaid, and has plenty of demonstrably intelligent subtexts on xenophobia, intolerance, and pathological hate crimes, skilfully layered beneath a deceptively routine storyline. The alien monster is wisely hidden in by night shadows or kept off-screen using POV camera angles until the climactic scenes of grisly confrontation. Early glimpses of the apparently vengeful creature are unerringly reminiscent of the familiar genre schlock we all love, and it's quite clear this is the product of a keen fan's sensibility. As the running time of this picture is only 86 minutes, it seems a great shame the distributors were not able to include the rarely seen black and white original on this disc, but some of those 1950s' titles are available on DVD from another label. (Do shop around for all these, though; as the older flicks may cost more than the new ones - from certain retail suppliers!)
   DVD extras: behind-the-scenes featurette, photo gallery, assorted trailers, plus an informative and enthusiastic commentary track by Stan Winston and co-producer Shane Mahan.
Day the World Ended

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