Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Review: Damien: Omen II (1978)

Director: Don Taylor
Starring: William Holden, Lee Grant, Jonathon Scott-Taylor

I'm just going to come out and say it; I don’t really like the Omen series. Even the first one is pretty overrated. These movies aren’t the worst out there, but they’re just so played out and so trite that there’s no point in watching them more than once. The first movie had its moments, but even then it didn’t really captivate, and it was really just a tamer and dumbed down version of the other two Satanic horror bigwigs of the time, The Exorcist and Rosemary's Baby. And the series as a whole just doesn't provide any tension or danger – we already know Damien isn’t actually going to be killed, we know there will be mysterious deaths that mostly look like accidents or suicides, and we know people will start getting suspicious by the end. So what’s the point? Maybe if the writing was better it would be okay, but if the first one can’t even keep my interest these days, the sequel sure doesn’t have a chance. This…is Damien: Omen II.

The movie opens with the credits, which are delivered over the soundtrack, which I think is farting at us the entire time. We see the character Bugenhagen from the first movie showing some newspapers from all over the world to a colleague of his. They all have the story about the US senator and his wife from the first movie dying on the front page, and even though you’d think they would put a picture of the senator and his wife there, every article only has a picture of little Damien. I don’t know, that just strikes me as strange. Bugenhagen tells his buddy that Damien is the Antichrist, and that he needs to be destroyed.

So the colleague agrees to go to this underground ruins with him so that Bugenhagen can prove what he’s saying is true. They poke around for a bit until they find a picture of a young boy surrounded by snakes and fire and other evil things painted on the wall. They…somehow know it’s Damien, even though it could just as well be any other boy, and then right when they realize it, the ground starts shaking. Even though this kind of thing probably could have happened anywhere in this volatile underground room, Bugenhagen says it’s the Antichrist at work, and they promptly get buried underneath sand and rocks because the Antichrist presumably didn’t like their acting.

Then we cut to 7 years later, where frankly the movie could have started in the first place and not lost any momentum. But I guess they really needed the extra bit of hokey mysticism. Two boys named Damien (gasp!) and Mark are leaving to go to military school, glad to be away from their crazy, mean old aunt. The family has a discussion at the table where it’s revealed that the crazy aunt hates Damien for some reason, and the rest of the family will have none of it. So later that night a big black bird gets into her room – the family has an infestation of them this time of year, I gather – and the soundtrack becomes so ridiculous that it gives her a heart attack.

After some political garble and some history lessons, we see that the Thorn cousins are initiated into the new drill sergeant’s little regime. The drill sergeant is probably intended to be menacing and strict, but really it’s more like he’s reading his lines off a cue prompter. Oh and his name is Neff. That’s…just silly. Then we see Richard Thorn, the father and brother of the senator from the original movie, meeting the journalist who he was told was going to talk to him, a woman named Joan Hart, who we were told is a professional working on a big project about archaeology. They start to talk until she reveals that Richard’s brother met with Bugenhagen for the purposes of an exorcism, and she starts talking faster and crazier with each new development, at the end reducing to nothing but screaming at him to “Believe in Christ!” Yes, this professional, well known reporter sure does have a great method of interviewing, doesn’t she? She’s so persuasive! I wonder how anyone could turn her down.

Ugh. So after some more brilliant journalism in which she pretty much just shouts at and alienates everyone who could possibly help her or listen to her, her car comes to a stop on the road and she’s killed by one crow while the soundtrack goes on a rampage again, sounding like it’d be more credible if it were composed by a cat with Down’s syndrome.

Then we switch to the winter time at home, where it’s Mark’s birthday. Damien talks to one of the politicians from earlier in the movie about initiation, and the guy tells him that Damien’s 13th birthday will be his ‘initiation’, and his ‘time to set aside childish things and face who he is.’ Uh…maybe if this were the year 1903 it would be. But I don’t think that’s really quite how it works in the 1980s, you morons.

The next day we see everyone playing ice hockey until the oldest member of their group, the president of Thorn’s company, falls under the ice and gets pulled away by the current until he dies, thus making the other guy, who wants to set up a progressive plan to make more money, the acting president. At the military academy, we see Damien facing off with his teacher, who accuses him of not listening in class only for Damien to get the answers right to every single question. Kid, nobody likes a show off. Just sit back down and draw some more funny pictures instead.

But no, then we see Sergeant Neff pulling Damien out of class and telling him to look in the Book of Revelations in order to find out who he really is. Pfft, I hate these military academies. They always have to try and push the same old conformist beliefs on everyone! But ooh, then Damien looks in the book like he was told and finds out he’s the Antichrist! Yeah, I remember when school teachers used to guide me on my anti-Christian path to global human domination, too. Those were the days.

Oh, and can you believe that upon discovering the classic 666 sign on his head, Damien actually runs out to the sea and shouts “Why? Why me!?” Dude, I thought that was one of those clichés that was so old that nobody ever actually used it. But hey, who am I to argue with the franchise that brought us the psychic fair in Omen IV? I must not understand the complex inner workings of this brilliant story. Yeah, that’s it.

Ocean = Dramatic; it's practically a rule.
So while Damien, Mark and some other kids are taking a tour of their father’s company workshop, something goes wrong and radioactive smoke floods the room. Every kid except Damien suffers minor side effects, and the doctor reveals that Damien’s cell structure is different. So…the Antichrist has different cell structure from regular human beings, and nobody noticed that until now. Even though the kid has been living a perfectly normal and happy life, probably going to the doctor for check-ups routinely, nobody noticed anything different about his bodily makeup until now. Yeah, right. And I’m the prince of Ecuador.

The doctor dies a horrible, bloody death, and then the next day one of Richard’s friends comes to tell him of Bugenhagen’s warnings, which he mysteriously found…Richard doesn’t believe him, but he does start to admit that something seems strange. Mark is killed in the woods after a talk with Damien, a funeral is held, and Richard becomes more and more inclined to go searching for the mysterious wall with Damien’s face on it that will prove everything, which his friend also saw. Let’s see…yup, everything expected is here. We get ominous shots of Damien looking cold and unfeeling, we get a few more mysterious deaths and then we get a rushed climax where it’s revealed that the mother was working for Damien the whole time, too. She kills Richard, and then…is burned in a fire herself, because I guess she figured out that this series sucks, and didn’t want to be in the third movie. Smart move!

So that’s Omen II, and it’s just a chore to sit through. The acting is pretty mediocre, the directing is nothing special, the music is too over the top and silly, the characters are boring and the story just isn’t that great. The entire Omen series is pretty much hack work anyway, with little to offer any seasoned horror fan. I guess this isn’t a terrible movie or anything, but it’s just so unimpressive and so droll that I can’t recommend it. Moral of the story, being the Antichrist gets you chicks.

Lucky bastard.