DAMIEN: OMEN II - 1978
20th Century Fox
Rated: USA: R
A beat up car races through the dirt streets. Inside, and old man we will come to know as Carl Bugenhagen (Leo McKern: THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE, THE OMEN) drives like a maniac through the back streets of some old world primitive coastal town: Possibly Cairo or New York City. He is chased all the way by a chorus and Jerry Goldsmith music.
Crazy Carl is a religious fanatic and is in a rush to meet his friend, a scientist, archeologist, Michael (Ian Hendry: CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED, JOURNEY TO THE FAR SIDE OF THE SUN, TALES FROM THE CRYPT , THEATER OF BLOOD, CAPTAIN KRONOS: VAMPIRE HUNTER). Crazy Carl found an ancient wall painting in a newly discovered, ancient crypt and that painting, of the devil, looks just like a photograph of Damien Thorn, the son of the U.S. ambassador to Britain, Robert Thorn, who was shot to death when he tried to murder his four year old kid in a Catholic church (we'll discuss the Catholic church and young boy shenanigans later).
For Crazy Carl, this is all the proof needed to know that Damien Thorn is the incarnation of Satan and that's why Carl gave those holy daggers to Robert Thorn in the first place: So the man would kill his own son!
Friend or no friend, after a story like that, I'd be backing away from my religious fanatic friend right about then. But not Michael.
Michael is a reputable, esteemed, scientist. He'll need to see ironclad proof that the Thorn kid is the devil, something like... perhaps seeing that painting on the wall for himself.
So they go see it, a black bird watches them, and merry mishaps occur.
Seven years later, Damien should be eleven years old and in the fourth grade, but he looks a lot more like 16 and goes to a military academy.
Current Damien (Jonathan Scott-Taylor) is wrapping up a weekend with his Uncle Richard (William Holden: THE DARK PAST, THE DEVIL'S DAUGHTER), his Aunt Ann (Lee Grant: MULHOLLAND DR.) and his grand Aunt Marion (Sylvia Sydney: MARS ATTACKS!). Damien doesn't get along with crazy Aunt Marion though.
That night, after Damien and his cousin Mark (Lucas Donat) have left for school, Aunt Marion raises hell at dinner. She wants that Damien brat outta here!
Later still, as Aunt Marion tries to sleep, a black bird flies in her bedroom and merry mishaps occur.
The next morning, Damien and his cousing meet their new Platoon Leader Sergeant Neff (An very young Lance Henriksen: TERMINATOR, ALIENS, NEAR DARK, ALIEN³, SCREAM 3, ABOMINABLE, ALIEN VS. PREDATOR, CYRUS). The Sergeant is stalwart and very disciplined, but seems to have a soft spot in his heart for Damien. Damien gets into a scuffle with a bully and discovers interesting new psychic powers he didn't know he had.
Being the CEO of Thorn Industries, Richard meets his company president Bill Atherton (Lew Ayers: DONOVAN'S BRAIN, BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES, END OF THE WORLD), who objects to the new business executive, Paul Buher (Jeff Foxworth: THE DEVIL'S DAUGHTER, PROPHECY). Paul has some radical ideas about using the corporation to bring about world peace "Our future is in famine.". He believes the answer to world peace is feeding the starving who want to kill us: Negotiate peace through food (in 1978, nobody had Bob Geldoff's eye-opening experience with third world hunger yet and what really causes it).
Old Bill thinks it's a terrible idea to to starve our enemies to negotiate peace and prosperity. Bill thinks you control people with oil not food
And so its Liberals vs Conservative all over again, but which one is really evil?
Can't they both be evil? No? Oh well.
Uncle Richard gets the bad news about Aunt Marion. As he's about to leave in his limo, a reasonably attractive reporter, wearing a bright red dress, named Joan Hart (Elizabeth Shepherd: TOMB OF LIGEIA, THE SPREADING GROUND), cons him into giving her a lift
As luck would have it, Joan is crazy reporter and Richard has her thrown out.
Joan realizes it's possible, that just maybe, she's being a bit daft. So she goes to Damien's school looking for proof. She sees Damien playing football and, when he catches a forward pass, she's convinced that he's the devil!
Joan drives off, a chorus chasing her down the road, and gets inexplicably attacked by a small blackbird. The bird fights amazingly well for a 16 ounce creature with no hands, sharp teeth, stingers, or powerful claws. Conversely, the reporter fights amazingly bad for a 150 pound creature with arms, hands, and fingers that are everywhere they could possibly be, except for on her head where the damn bird is throughout the attack. The bird attacks in THE BIRDS made sense because you had a flock of them attackin you from every angle: You were overwhelmed by their mass. But a single bird? Mishaps occur yet again, although now that I'm about 30 minutes into the movie and the crazies - all with the same story - are dying about every 10 minutes, said mishaps are not as merry.
It's not made clear, but somehow old Bill is a threat to Damien and mishaps occur. This puts Paul in place as President of Thorn industries. Paul begins flexing his new muscle immediately in an obvious attempt to become the new face of Thorn Industries and push Richard out.
Between Aunt Marion and his old friend Bill, Richard is going through the same tragedies his brother suffered and in the same way that nearly got Damien killed in the first movie. You'd think Satan or at the very least, his minions, wouldn't make these same mistakes twice. Or for that matter, you'd think story writer and producer, Harvey Bernhard wouldn't have his screenwriters, Stanley Mann and Michael Hodges repeat these same mistakes. Sequels offer a wonderful opportunity to fill in the minor flaws or plot holes in te first movie. Yet invariably they only serve to enlarge them. And enlarge them Harvey did, and his writers did.
Every time someone tells old Uncle Richard that Damien is the Anti-Christ, or even merely odd, they die. Where this was enough to convince his brother, Richard, in the first movie, Uncle Richard chalks it all up to coincidence. Even when one character in the third act runs down the body count (apparently for those of us who lost count), Richard still chalks it all up to coincidence. While the evidence in the movie is wonky, it's the logic we are supposed to use to suspend our belief. And that being the case, within this movie's logic, Richard's disbelief is ridiculous - unless he turns out to be one of the "guides".
Oh, did I mention that there's a minority guy with a speaking role? And whenever there's a minority in an otherwise all-white Hollywood Horror movie, you know its time for a
!!!UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHE ALERT!!!:
Seems the good Doctor Kane (Meshach Taylor: THE HOWLING, THE BEAST WITHIN, HYENAS), who has black skin, found something odd about Damien Thorn's physical make-up, and so wants to run some more tests.
As usual, there are plenty of white survivors at the end of this movie, but if you are a minority, and unless you are a silent extra, like a servant to the good white folks, you are either a threat or a hero but in any case you are a Dead Threat or Dead Hero.
You see, DAMIEN: OMEN II, is about Satan's voyage of self-discovery. He doesn't know he's Satan yet.
So as in the first movie, Damien has "guides" to protect him until he reaches adulthood and power. They will die to protect him, although it's never clear what they expect to get out of it. After all, Satan knows no gratitude, otherwise how could he be evil?
Also as in the first movie, it takes preposterously little to convince people that Damien is Satan, and that includes Damien.
The deaths every ten minutes negate any possibility of suspense. Not only are we warned in advance when someone does something to put their head on the block, but in case we still missed the point, we get the ominous monk's choir to underline it. While the warnign music in JAWS was used to excellent, even iconic effect, it just falls flat here. Possibly because the deaths themselves are either so silly or so mediocre.
There's also plenty of howling in anguish. Director Don Taylor went to the well a few times too many with this device, and after the second time it becomes something of a drinking game.
DAMIEN: OMEN II, didn't make as much money as Richard Donner's THE OMEN, but since it was cheaper it was profitable. Profitable enough that even in the dark days before home video took off, it was decided to make a second sequel and so bring the whole story of revelations full circle for a trilogy.
Overall, DAMIEN: OMEN II is pretty mediocre, although a good ending can certainly save an otherwise bland movie. OMEN II ends with an anti-climax.
Two Shriek girls.
copyright 2012 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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