Review #1: Damien: Omen II
Damien: Omen II was originally directed by Mike Hodges before he was replaced by Don Taylor. Some of the scenes Mike shot are in the film. Harvey Bernhard wrote the story, with the script being written by Mike Hodges and Stanley Mann. William Holden, Lee Grant, Johnathan Scott-Taylor, Robert Foxworth, Nicholas Pryor, Lew Ayres, Sylvia Sidney, Lance Henriksen, Elizabeth Shepherd, Lucas Donat, and Allan Arbus star.
Seven years have passed since the deaths of Robert and Katherine Thorn. Damien now lives with his uncle Richard and aunt Ann and attends a prestigious military academy. On the eve of Damien’s 13th birthday, he finally learns his nature. And he must stand strong against his enemies if he is to triumph.
There was so much potential in the film and unfortunately, while it is a decent follow-up to The Omen (1976), it flounders somewhat. The tension and suspense so expertly built-up in the original is just squandered here. While there are tense scenes, to be sure, it just kind of flits in and out of the picture. The beginning of the picture builds the suspense nicely, but once Damien finds out the truth, it disappears. They should have waited a little longer for Damien to reveal his true nature. The one thing that the first picture had going for it was that nothing they happened could be tied directly to Damien. It was all a question of whether Damien really was the Antichrist or if it was all a coincidence. And they continue that for a little bit. Then Damien finds out the truth and rails against it for a minute and then begins to have a more direct hand in his fate. A better way to go about it would maybe have him struggle against his true identity more before finally embracing it in the end. Give the people the suspense that he might triumph over his fate before yanking the rug out from under them.
The story is unevenly paced and the third act much too short. Although the very shocking twist at the end is breathtaking. It comes out of nowhere, but if you pay attention, you can see little clues leading up to it. It almost makes up for the lack of suspense in the second act. The story does keep your interest and has some great moments, but the story is far short of what we potentially could have had.
The casting was great. William Holden is as classy an actor as Gregory Peck. Lee Grant plays Ann beautifully. John Scott-Taylor is very menacing as Damien. Elizabeth Shepherd is perfect as the excitable Joan Hart. Sylvia Sidney is brilliant as Aunt Marion. Her role should honestly have been expanded. The deaths are inspired and stay true to the series. The elevator death scene is particularly brutal.
Overall, Damien: Omen II (1978) is a well-deserved 8/10. While the story could use a little work, the cast and effects are excellent. I would definitely recommend this.
Review #2: The Final Conflict: Omen III
The Final Conflict: Omen III was directed by Graham Baker from a script by Andrew Birkin. Sam Neill, Rossano Brazzi, Don Gordon, Lisa Harrow, Barnaby Holm, and Mason Adams star.
Damien is 32 years old and is running Thorn Industries. He’s just been appointed to the ambassadorship to England. His rise as the Antichrist is beginning. But he must now destroy the Second Coming of Christ if he is to cement his power. Meanwhile, a group of monks have gathered the Daggers of Megiddo and plan to destroy the Antichrist once and for all.
We deserved a far better ending to the Omen trilogy. While this isn’t a complete turkey, it’s a huge letdown from the previous films. For one, the plot isn’t anything like we should expect from the Antichrist consolidating power. The main plot seems to be him gathering followers and romancing Kate Reynolds. The subplot, which isn’t given nearly enough attention, is killing the baby that is the Second Coming of Christ. We learn a little of Damien’s political ambitions, but not enough to learn how he plans to conquer the world. Even his running of Thorn Industries, his ambassadorship, as well as his leading the UN’s Youth Council are barely footnotes. We see he’s gathered followers, but never how he came upon them. And his speech to them is over the top cheesy. And then we have retcons and inconsistencies from the previous films. The new timeline has the original film taking place in the 1950s, which is clearly inaccurate. And the plot involving the daggers of Meggido completely contradicts The Omen (1976). You need all seven to kill the Antichrist. Using any less simply kills his body, not his soul.
The cast is pretty good. Especially Sam Neill and Lisa Harrow. They have great chemistry, even if it feels rushed to an extent. Sam is very charismatic as Damien, exactly what you would expect from the Antichrist. And he even does well with some moments of cheesy dialogue. Barnaby Holm as Peter is a standout. His descent into becoming Damien’s apostate is chilling. There’s an uncomfortable erotic undertone to their relationship, which adds to the discomfort of the movie. The rest of the cast is adequate and does the best with the script that they can.
The special effects are adequate, but only one of the deaths stand out. The suicide of the Ambassador is well done and very jarring. The third act is another thing that helps to ruin the picture. It’s very truncated and has very little build-up. It’s quite underwhelming. We deserved far better having invested so much into the series and into Damien.
The Final Conflict: Omen III (1981) is a 5/10. Decent casting can’t save this film from a bad script. If you want a better conclusion to the Omen trilogy, you’re going to be greatly disappointed.