At the onset of the new millennium, Stan Winston co-produced a series of remakes under the Creature Features banner. They were updates of sci-fi drive-in classics from the 50's. I won't bore you with canned observations of each film (there were five total), but suffice to say, most of them were agreeable. Prior to finding this puppy at a thrift store, The Day the World Ended was one of the rebuffs I had not seen. It probably wouldn't surprise you to learn that I have seen the 1958 original, a kooky time-waster with a plenitude of pep. If you're also familiar with the parent picture, you should know that the 2001 version has changed pretty much everything, the title notwithstanding. That title...it has absolutely nothing to do with the story. Zot squat.
We zero in on Ben, a little boy in a (really) small town. He's demure, he gets bullied, even the teachers treat him like roach ordure. And that wasn't really a sentence, but roll with me. A new school counselor comes to, um, Smalltown, and it's not long before she forms an unspoken bond with Ben. Sierra Vista! That's the name of the town. Sorry. Anywho, it becomes crystal clear that everyone is keeping a major secret. PRO TIP: If your community is trying to keep a major secret, maybe don't act cagey and circumspect around all outsiders. I won't spoil twisty-twists, but the secret involves a murderous alien with surly tentacles.
I'll start with the positive stuff. Winston didn't just help produce this flick; he helped with the creature effects, and they kick ass. All practical, baby! It's a peachy monster. On the not-so-positive front, there are two moments of cruddy CGI. Fret not, for they are never used for the space-endemic beast. Bobby Edner plays the role of our child actor, and I have to give him credit. He's quite good, and I didn't want to strangle him once. The rest of the cast is versed. Nastassja Kinski gives a stellar performance as the concerned therapist. Randy Quaid is intimidating as the brutish doctor. I don't know if he was already cracked in 2001, but I kept waiting for his gaskets to spout. I imagined him grabbing an orange and proclaiming, "This is my god! I am basted for the babysitter hooves!"
With regards to the plot, it's fairly unique for a small-scale creature feature. That doesn't mean it makes sense. There are flashbacks toward the end that fill in some of the blanks, but they don't connect the most substantial dots. The sci-fi elements end up suffering. Aren't those the elements that carry the bulk of the weight? On the whole, I wasn't terribly attached to a single character, so I can't say I cared if anyone died. It was a stolid, neutral watch. "Neutral" is the appropriate word, though I did enjoy The Day The World Ended. For what its worth, it outranks its loopy forebear. If you're interested in checking out the other entries in this series, steer clear of Teenage Cavemen. Don't ask questions. Steer. Clear.
Posted by Dom Coccaro at 9:09 AM