October 30th: Omen IV: The Awakening, The Omen (2006)

Review 1: Omen IV: The Awakening

Omen IV: The Awakening was to be directed by Dominique Othenin-Girard, but he left over creative differences and was replaced by Jorge Montesi. Brian Taggert and Harvey Bernhard wrote the story, with the teleplay being written by Brian Taggert. Faye Grant, Michael Woods, Michael Learner, Madison Mason, Ann Hearn, and Asia Vieira star.

Karen and Gene York adopt a baby they name Delia after years of trying to get pregnant. Life is perfect at first, but then bizarre events and deaths begin to plague the family. After becoming unexpectedly pregnant, Karen begins to believe that Delia is evil and tries to find the identity of her parents.

This was a made-for-tv movie and it shows. Limited violence, little to no blood, and a weak story. The only thing going for it is the twist at the end, that unfortunately comes too late to salvage this movie. The pace is uneven. There’s no suspense or tension. It’s a luke-warm movie.

The cast is adequate. Kate is our focal point and Faye does a pretty good job. Ann Hearn is nice as well, but her character is so underdeveloped it’s hard to care. Asia is a poor choice as Delia. Rather than looking scary as the potential Antichrist, she just looks angry. Like a kid who got her favorite toy taken away. The rest of the cast does the best they can with the script. But there’s basically no character development. One character is a nun who seems to have a crisis of faith, but we don’t really get to see her full arc.

Karen learns the truth about Delia in Omen IV: The Awakening

The deaths and special effects are practically G-rated. Everything is pretty much off-screen or as unexplicit as it could possibly be. The most interesting death involves a character falling out of window (or being thrown). A potentially interesting death involves a construction site, but nothing is seen. Another death involves snakes and leads to some interesting make-up effects, but it’s still weak at best.

Omen IV: The Awakening (1991) gets 3/10. They try, but fail to make a compelling movie. This is a movie you should definitely avoid.

Omen IV: The Awakening trailer

Review #2: The Omen (2006)

John Moore directed The Omen (2006) from a script by David Seltzer. Liev Schreiber, Julia Stiles, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, David Thewlis, Pete Postlethwaite, and Mia Farrow star.

The plot is identical to the original 1976 The Omen. Robert Thorn replaces his deceased child with an orphaned baby to spare his wife Katherine the grief of losing the baby. They name him Damien and after five years of peace, bizarre events begin to plague the family.

This movie is pretty much exactly the same movie they made in 1976, save for some updates to match up with the present day. The difference is: the acting is mostly horrible and the tension and suspense are non-existent. The absence of the Jerry Goldsmith score is also glaring. This movie is as big a dumpster fire as the 1998 remake of Psycho.

With the exception of Mia Farrow, the acting in the film is garbage. Everyone feels like they’re phoning it in. It lacks the emotional resonance of the original. The chemistry between Liev and Julia is particularly awful. They feel more like brother and sister than husband and wife. Liev feels emotionally distant from the material, as if he’s just reading cue cards. He’s very wooden and dispassionate. Seamus is an awful choice as Damien. Not only can he not act, he can’t emote either. Unlike Harvey Stephens, who was chilling as Damien in the original Omen, Seamus just looks like he’s making goofy faces. You don’t feel like he’s a threat. In fact in some scenes he just looks constipated. The one thing they did right that stood out was the constant use of bright red. Red of course is a color most often associated with Satan, so its use throughout the film is very appropriate.

The Omen (2006) is a 3/10. Avoid this movie at all costs. If you want a really great horror movie about the Antichrist, watch the original.

The Omen (2006) trailer

October 29th: Damien: Omen II (1978), The Final Conflict: Omen III (1981)

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.

The old ambassador takes a powder in Damien: Omen II

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.

An elevator accident in Damien: Omen II

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.

Damien: Omen II trailer

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.

Damien prays to his Father in The Final Conflict: Omen III

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.

Damien’s evil spreads in The Final Conflict: Omen III

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.

Trailer for The Final Conflict: Omen III

October 28th: The Omen (1976)

The Omen was directed by Richard Donner from a script by David Seltzer. Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, Holly Palance, Harvey Stephens, Billy Whitelaw, and David Warner star.

Katherine Thorn gives birth to a baby that dies shortly after. To spare her the grief of having lost a child, her husband, Robert, substitutes an orphaned child. He is named Damien. They live in peaceful bliss for five years. But after receiving the ambassadorship to England and moving into a new house, bizarre events begin to occur. The nanny hangs herself, proclaiming that it’s “all for Damien.” Damien reacts poorly to being near a church. Baboons go crazy at a visit to the zoo. Shortly after the arrival of a new nanny, Robert realizes something is wrong with the child.

It’s all for you, Damien!

This movie is perfect. One of those rare classics, like The Exorcist and The Shining, that stands the test of time and is just as frightening now as it was when it was released. The suspense build steadily the entire film until it explodes into an amazing finale. The ending shot is iconic and chilling. It helps that the movie is grounded in reality. Nothing that happens in the movie couldn’t happen in real life. That makes it much scarier. Adding to the fright is the brilliant score by Jerry Goldsmith. It’s terrifying and really adds to the atmosphere of the movie. Like the theme in Halloween, music can really help set a mood and build up the tension.

The basis of the movie is this loving family that has awful things happen to it. Gregory and Lee have amazing chemistry and their love is very believable. Gregory, who came out of retirement for this role and actually had lost his son to suicide the year before filming, gives the film a gravitas many actors couldn’t. His most iconic role had been Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird and that knowledge certainly helped make the picture believable. Lee was perfect as the mother. We see her begin to unravel as more bizarre things begin to happen and we see her animosity against Damien grow. It culminates to her decision to not have anymore children. It’s all the more heartbreaking knowing she is unknowingly raising a child that isn’t actually hers.

Robert Thorn realizes the truth of what Damien is

The rest of the cast is also brilliant. Billie as Mrs. Baylock is pure evil. From the moment she steps into the movie you can tell she has bad intentions. And she does an amazing job in the role. David Warner as Jennings is the grounding force in realistically explaining the strange goings-on. Harvey Stephens as little Damien exudes an air of innocence with just enough of a touch of evil for you to believe that he might be behind some of the events of the film.

Some other great moments in The Omen (1976)

The practical effects in the film are also well done. The hanging of the nanny looks so real and a decapitation later in the film is so shocking that you’ll wonder how they did it.

The Omen (1976) is one of the rare horror films to more than earn 10/10. It feels real and is truly scary. This is definitely a film every horror fan should see at least once in their lives.

The Omen (1976) trailer

October 27th: When a Stranger Calls Back (1993)

Fred Walton wrote and directed When a Stranger Calls Back, with Carol Kane, Jill Schoelen, Charles Durning, and Gene Lythgow starring.

Julia is baby-sitting when a strange man comes to the door, claiming to be having car trouble. Julia gets an odd feeling from him and reluctantly helps him, but refuses to open the door. However, throughout the night, as he returns several times, she realizes she’s not alone. She barely escapes with her life. Five years later, someone begins to break into her college apartment and move things around. At a loss she goes to the police and she’s able to get help from someone who’s been in a similar situation: Jill Johnson.

When a Stranger Calls Back was released in 1972. It was a hit and had several iconic moments and lines including “Have you checked the children?” and “The calls are coming from inside the house.” Eventually a sequel was planned and wound up being set up at Showtime. This is a rare horror sequel that stands equal to the original. The fact that two actors from the original film as well as the writer and director were involved with the sequel gave it a leg up. The opening sequence in Calls Back is just as tense and terrifying as the original. The story as a whole is, perhaps, a little better since it keeps its focus on a smaller cast and stays focused on the horror aspect. The ending is very creepy and suspenseful and wraps up the movie perfectly.

The prologue of When a Stranger Calls Back (1993)

The casting is flawless. Everyone plays their role perfectly. Jill is very believable as a terrified student who doesn’t know what to do to stop the intruder. Carol slips into Jill Johnson like its a second skin. Seeing Julia go through a similar situation to what she endured several years ago, brings back old feelings as well as a determination to help her at any cost. Charles is perfect as John, who’s determined and fatherly. His empathy for what Julia is going through seems very real. Lythgow as the stranger is creepy and disturbing in a very realistic way. Every moment in this film feels as if it could actually happen, which heightens the horror these people are going through.

Jill explains why Julia is believable in When a Stranger Calls Back (1993)

When a Stranger Calls Back (1993) gets 8/10. It’s a very creepy, tense movie that will have the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. As a bonus the Blu-Ray has the original short The Sitter, which was then turned into When a Stranger Calls (1972), among its bonus features.

When a Stranger Calls Back (1993) trailer

Quick Reviews October 24th-26th: The Stuff (1985), Cursed (2005), The Entity (1982)

Review #1: The Stuff (1985)

The Stuff is written and directed by Larry Cohen. Michael Moriarty, Andrea Marcovicci, Garrett Morris, Paul Sorvino, and Scott Bloom. Bloomstar.

The Stuff is marketed to Americans as a healthier alternative to ice cream. And soon the country is addicted. The various ice cream companies decide to hire David “Mo” Rutherford to investigate The Stuff and figure out what it’s made of. It doesn’t take long for Mo to find out that The Stuff is a huge threat to the citizens of America.

The Stuff is the epitome of a 1980s horror movie. It wouldn’t work in any other decade. It uses this ice cream alternative to dissect the madness that is consumerism. As people eat it they become more and more addicted and crave more. And if someone tries to resist, they force it on you. And similar to how we see Walmart plunder small towns, we see how the company behind The Stuff destroys towns in their wake. It’s a message that is very relevant these days. The movie is fast paced and keeps you on your toes as it goes along. I never felt bored watch this. There’s decent character development and you really feel the danger that they’re in.

Clip from The Stuff

The cast does an excellent job with the story. The chemistry between Mo and Nicole is perfect. You really feel like they care about each other. Mo is a truly strange character but you quickly come to root for him. The special effects are pretty remarkable for an 80s movie. They did a great job with bringing The Stuff to life. You can really feel the menace as it comes after you.

I give The Stuff (1985) 7.5/10. A fascinating, fast paced movie with an excellent cast. It’s a standout film in a decade dominated by slasher films. You’ll never look at ice cream or yogurt the same way again.

Trailer for The Stuff

Review #2: Cursed (2005)

Wes Craven directed Cursed from a script by Kevin Williamson. Christina Ricci, Jesse Eisenberg, Portia de Rossi, Mya, Shannon Elizabeth, Milo Ventimiglia, Joshua Jackson, Judy Greer, and Scott Baio star. Derek Mears plays the werewolf.

One night Ellie and Jimmy get into a car crash that ends with them both getting scratched by a weird animal. They soon realize it was a werewolf and race to stop it as it stalks Hollywood.

Christina and Jesse are fantastic in this scene in Cursed

If you know anything about this movie, it had a very troubled production. Wes had to deal with massive studio interference. They actually shot half the film before the Weinstein’s interfered and forced almost everything to be redone. A lot of the original cast was dropped or recast. The movie was also originally shot for an R-rating, but it was decided to make a PG-13 film. The interference also extended to the special effects as well, with lots of CGI used to cover up the practical effects. Both Rick Baker and KNB worked on the film, but you can’t really tell. Although the most egregious use of CGI was during a werewolf transformation and it honestly looks awful. This film could have seen Wes Craven deliver a classic werewolf film, but unfortunately the Weinstein’s ruined any chance of that.

The film, to an extent, is enjoyable, despite the studio interference. But it’s nowhere as great as it should have been. While Wes Craven is no stranger to making a bad film now and then, this can’t be laid at his doorstep. He does the best that he can. The cast is great. Christina and Jesse have fantastic chemistry and really play off each other well. Judy is excellent as the bitchy publicist. Joshua plays the mysterious boyfriend perfectly. The rest of the cast does the best they can with the script.

Some great moments from Cursed

I give Cursed (2005) 6/10. Not a classic by any means, it’s not entirely unenjoyable. It certainly could have been a lot worse.

Trailer for Cursed

Review #3: The Entity (1982)

Frank De Felitta wrote the novel and screenplay of The Entity, directed by Sidney J. Furie. Barbara Hershey, Ron Silver, David Labiosa, George Coe, and Margaret Blye star. The novel and movie are based off the experiences of Doris Bither. It’s considered one of the most documented paranormal experiences ever.

Carla Moran is a single mom of three kids who begins to be sexually assaulted by a spirit. Seeking therapy she’s made to believe that it’s all in her head, but the attacks get worse. After her son and best friend witness the attacks, she seeks the help of some parapsychologists.

Carla gets assaulted in the bathroom in The Entity

This is a very intense movie. The rape scenes are unrelenting and very uncomfortable. The terror this woman goes through is horrific. As she struggles with the attacks and getting help, it feels hopeless. She’s not believed by anybody and she’s made to believe it’s all in her head because of being molested by her father, while growing up being taught that sex is evil. When her best friend, Cindy, finally witnesses an attack, Carla is overjoyed that she’s not going crazy. When Carla finally gets in touch with some parapsychologists, she gains strength that she didn’t have when she was facing the entity alone. It’s honestly inspiring. Where the movie falters is the third act. The whole experiment to trap the entity is flawed and rushed. The thinking behind it is just really flawed.

Carla fights back against her psychiatrist in The Entity

The cast is top notch. Barbara is perfect as Carla, enduring horrible attacks. She really goes through the ringer and it all seems very real. Ron Silver is so scummy as Dr. Sneiderman, Carla’s shrink. He has preconceived notions about what Carla is going through and refuses believe anything else is going on. You do get a sense that he cares for her, but you can’t help but dislike him. David is great as Billy, Cara’s oldest son. Margaret is the perfect best friend.

The Entity (1982) gets 8/10. Despite a flawed third act, it is an underrated classic of sheer terror. You would do well to pick up a copy.

Carla feels vindicated after another attack in The Entity
Trailer for The Entity

October 23rd: 1408 (2007), Vacancy 2: The First Cut (2008)

Review #1: 1408

Michael Håfström directs 1408 from a short story by Stephen King and a screenplay by Matt Greenberg, Scott Alexander, and Larry Karaszewski. John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, Mary McCormack, and Tony Shalhoub star.

Mike Enslin makes a living debunking haunted places. One day he receives a post card that leads him to check out Room 1408 at the Dolphin Hotel in New York. Despite bribes to get him to check into any other room, he insists on staying in 1408. Once he’s in the room strange things begin to occur that will challenge his belief in the paranormal.

This is a slow burn movie. We spend some time getting to know Mike and what he does. As the story moves on, we get to know his past and how it scares him. Once he’s checked into the room, the haunting starts. At first it’s the radio turning on by itself and some things moving around, but the haunting gradually gets worse, building to a great ending that fulfills Mike’s character arc. The other cast are mostly cyphers, save for Lily, who’s connected to Mike’s past. But you don’t really need the other characters to be developed. They’re peripheral to the story. The pacing is slow, but it works to the movies advantage.

The cast is small which suits this movie just fine. It’s an intimate ghost story and you really only need one character as your main focus. John is totally unlikable at first, but as you learn the pain of his past you start to want him to escape the room. Mary McCormack really sells her pain and is such an underrated actress. Samuel L. Jackson is pretty restrained, unlike most of his characters, which is a nice change of pace. It’s nice to see a different side of him.

Most of the special effects are pretty good. Some, particularly the CGI ghosts, haven’t aged as well. But the practical effects are top notch. Especially the physical changes to the room. They do a great job selling the events that occur in 1408. You can almost feel what Mike is going on. What he’s feeling.

I give 1408 (2007) 7/10. It’s a slow burn ghost story worth a watch.

1408 (2007) trailer

Review #2: Vacancy: First Cut

Vacancy 2: The First Cut is directed by Eric Bross from a screenplay by Mark L. Smith. It stars Agnes Bruckner, David Moscow, Scott Anderson, Arjay Smith, and Trevor Wright.

A trio of teens heading south stop at The Meadow View Inn and soon realize their being recorded. However, what the proprietors have in store for them is far worse than they could imagine.

This movie was a huge disappointment. There was little to no suspense. There was barely any character development. The only thing we really get to know is that Jessica and Caleb are expecting a baby and Caleb is nervous about how Jessica’s dad will take all this. And that Tanner gets on their nerves constantly. The kills were lame. The pace is very slow. The movie seems to drag on endlessly, despite the run time only being about 90 minutes.

While the movie itself was awful, the cast was pretty decent. Trevor Wright is an underrated actor. Agnes Bruckner is honestly amazing and is so underrated. Jessica is honestly the only character who you really come to care about. Although the pregnancy is only ever mentioned once. Despite constant running and stress, never is the pregnancy mentioned again. David Moscow, Scott Anderson, and Brian Klugman do an adequate job as the antagonists, although there is a bumbling quality about them. Despite them killing a few of the cast, they just don’t feel very threatening.

Overall I give Vacancy 2: The First Cut (2008) 4/10. I expected better and was disappointed. I would avoid this.

Vacancy 2: The First Cut (2008) trailer

October 22nd: Room 6 (2006)

Room 6 is directed by Michael Hurst from a screenplay by Mark A. Altman and Michael Hurst. Christine Taylor, Shane Brolly, Jerry O’Connell, Chloë Grace Moretz, Lisa Ann Walter, Mary Pat Gleason, and Ellie Cornell star. Kane Hodder has a nice cameo.

Amy and Nick get into a horrible car crash and Nick is taken away in an ambulance. Amy struggles to find him along with help from Lucas who was the other guy involved in the accident and is looking for his sister. Meanwhile, Nick wakes up in a strange hospital where the nurses and doctor act very strangely. Soon enough, Amy realizes that in order to find out what’s going on she has to confront a tragic event from her past.

This movie had potential, but fails to execute it effectively. The characters don’t get much development, outside of Amy. The tension doesn’t feel genuine as the stakes never really feel that high. Other than Nick we only ever meet two other victims and they don’t provide much exposition. They’re just afraid. And the nature of the threat is never clearly defined. Are they ghosts? Vampires? Both? And the stakes for Amy don’t seem very high. Nick proposes to her in an early scene, but she blows him off in a very bizarre way. It just doesn’t feel very genuine. Honestly the best scenes are the opening scene and the two scenes with Ellie Cornell.

The cast is really great, Christine especially. She can really carry a movie. Unfortunately the story isn’t that great. But she’s fun to watch and she easily creates a character you care about. Ellie Cornell plays a kind of white trash mom and is really great at playing the role. Chloë is really creepy as a little girl with some kind of psychic powers, although she’s little more than a plot device to help move the story along. Shane is okay as Nick, but there isn’t much to give you a connection to him. Lucas is pretty much a cypher. All you know about him is that he smokes and he’s looking for his sister. And then his character makes a disturbing turn that in a better movie would have been more shocking.

There is some impressive make-up effects. Amy sees several demons which have some kind of connection to what’s going on, although it’s never really explained how. Kane plays one of the demons and his make-up is pretty good. There’s some blood, but not a lot. Although a nurse orgy with blood is interesting,

I give Room 6 (2006) 5/10. It features some interesting moments and a great cast, but not a story that lives up to its potential. I’d skip it.

Room 6 (2006) trailer