I wonder if the Syfy Channel is aware that it is 2013. Their latest original movie, End of the World (airing on Saturday night at 9 PM Eastern), centers on a video store called Movie Shack that specializes in disaster movies. Their tagline is “Disaster Lives Here.” What are the chances a store like that exists in 2013? Yet no one ever makes mention of the fact that they own or work at a video store in the era of VOD and streaming services.
No matter. There is some fun to be had in the network’s “homage to the passion and imagination of science fiction fans everywhere.” It has a scrappy charm that very nearly overcomes the budgetary limitations and odd timing.
The sci-fi geeks at the Movie Shack include the store’s owner, Owen (Greg Grunberg, Heroes) and employee Steve (Neil Grayston, Eureka). They spend their days talking about their favorite disaster movie lines and apparently never have to worry about serving customers. It also might be the only movie rental store in the world with posters of The Howling: Reborn and Syfy movies on its walls.
All their knowledge of sci-fi movies is about to come in handy. Without warning, plasma rain begins falling from the sky, destroying everything it touches (people immediately disintegrate when it falls on them). Soon an interstellar wave will destroy the entire planet. Luckily, the geeks knows that a thunder wave can save the world. All they have to do is convince the military to fire a nuclear warhead into an open pit in Siberia.
Assisting the geeks in their quest to save the world is Walter Brown (Brad Dourif), an ex-Department of Defense employee turned famous sci-fi writer now residing in a mental hospital. The geeks plan to break him out and go to his super bunker so they can implement their strategy to save the world.
The scope of End of the World is quite small. We never see much destruction and a lot of the action takes place in the video store and the bunker. The plasma rain and massive dust walls don’t make for very exciting action scenes. It also succumbs to sappiness a few times too many, a jarring shift from an otherwise goofy and lighthearted tone.
For the most part, though, the intentional humor works. Owen constantly and amusingly refers to himself as a “small business owner” when someone denigrates his working at a video store. A lot of laughs are also generated by the nearly nonstop talk of geek knowledge of the scenario; there’s a clever montage showcasing their prepping and protection methods. Also, the cast is a little above average for Syfy with Grunberg and Grayston making for an appealing geek duo.
The never-ending references (Star Wars, 2012, The Mummy Returns, Syfy Channel movies, and too many more to count) are both humorous and obnoxious, sometimes simultaneously, and the geek pandering is a little strained. But End of the World gets significant mileage out of its healthy sense of humor and is a cut above typical Syfy fare.