4:44 LAST DAY ON EARTHBy Colleen Wanglund, MoreHorror.com

While not technically a horror movie, 4:44 LAST DAY ON EARTH (2012) still manages to pack a terrifying, if quiet, punch. Written and directed by maverick filmmaker Abel Ferrara (BAD LEIUTENANT {1992}, THE FUNERAL {1996}, MS. 45 {1981}) 4:44 takes an intimate look at a Bohemian couple living out their final day on Earth.

Cisco (Willem Dafoe) is a successful actor living with his artist girlfriend Skye (Shanyn Leigh) on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. As the title suggests, life on Earth will cease to exist on this particular day at 4:44 AM due to humanity’s failure to do anything about climate change. Cisco and Skye say their goodbyes to loved ones via Skype, while in between they meditate, make love, and order Chinese food for dinner. Skye is also furiously trying to finish her painting while Cisco goes to visit friends in just one of a few surreal scenes in the film.

There is no real science in the story. We are not even told how the end is going to happen, only the certainty that the end IS coming and at what time. Humanity’s impending doom is shown by way of news reports assuring whoever is watching that the end is near, as well as using footage of candle light processions, Muslims praying in Mecca, and the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square. Pat Kiernan of NY1 News makes an appearance as himself, reporting on the bleakness of the situation. Multiple televisions are broadcasting the end in the couple’s apartment and Cisco attempts to find solace in the words of Al Gore and the Dalai Lama. One of my favorite scenes is one of Cisco standing out on the balcony where we can see life going on as usual in the background with cars and pedestrian traffic and then it cuts to a neighbor jumping to his death from the fire escape. It’s a very surreal and jarring scene.

This is not a big-budget, special FX extravaganza like 2012 (2009) or THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW (2004). Ferrara takes the impending apocalypse—scary in its own right—and zooms in on the affect it has on two regular people. The story follows the stages of grief, including depression, anger, and denial. There is a very poignant scene early on in the movie when the couple has Chinese food delivered and we find out the delivery boy keeps doing his job because he is a world away from his family. Skye hugs and thanks the young man as he leaves. Later on, we see Cisco and Skye lying together inside Skye’s painting of a giant snake eating its own tail—symbolic of the cycle of life? In the end there is no “big bang”, just acceptance in the final moments of life.

4:44 LAST DAY ON EARTH clocks in at just under 85 minutes, although it felt like real time sitting in the theater, which emphasizes how time can seem to slow or stop altogether under trying circumstances. 4:44 tells a frightening story, to be sure but Ferrara tells it in such a heartbreakingly beautiful way. No blood, guts or gore; no screams of terror. There is pain, confusion, and even doubt as well as the agonizing struggle of coming to terms with death. There were times during the film where I almost cried. Unlike Ferrara’s other films, 4:44 LAST DAY ON EARTH is deliberately quiet, though not entirely somber. Most everything Cisco and Skye do are ordinary but take on a new urgency when set against such a calamitous backdrop. There is a subtle spiritual vibe that fits nicely into a complex but at the same time simple story about a man, a woman, and the end of the world. What would you do if you only had one day left to live?

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