Damien: Omen II

Damien - Omen IISynopsis: Damien Returns To Fulfill His Destiny.

Since the sudden and highly suspicious death of his parents, 12-year-old Damien has been in the charge of his wealthy aunt and uncle (Lee Grant and William Holden).

Widely feared to be the Antichrist, Damien relentlessly plots to seize control of his uncle’s business empire – and the world. Meanwhile, anyone attempting to unravel the secrets of Damien’s sinister past or fiendish future meets with a swift and cruel demise.

In this chilling sequel to The Omen, the forces of good and evil battle each other to a taut and terrifying end.

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Damien: Omen II 8.75

eyelights: Jonathan Scott-Taylor. watching Damien come into his own. seeing the network building around Damien. Jerry Goldsmith’s creepy score.
eyesores: the weaker acting.

“The day will come when everyone will know who you are, but that day is not yet.”

‘Damien: Omen II’ is the first sequel to ‘The Omen‘. It continues the story of Damien Thorn, who is said to be the spawn of Satan and is being groomed for power by secret conspirators and forces untold. By this point in his ascension, Damien is a young teenager, and doesn’t know what is transpiring; he has suspicions of destiny, but no awareness of his actual origins and what will be expected of him.

Orphaned, he finds himself in the care of his uncle Richard Thorn, a rich industrialist, and his second wife Ann. He has close ties with them as well as his cousin Mark, who is like a brother to him. Unfortunately, his destiny as the Antichrist is beyond his control; events have already been set in motion that will tear his family apart and position him as the heir of a vast fortune and earthly power.

I first saw parts of this picture when I was 12-13 years old, on pay TV. I never saw all of it, I think, but I saw bits of it here and there; I still recall very vividly the Grand Guignol deaths of Joan Hart and Dr. Kane – both of which, at the age of thirteen, had me in hysterics. It would be years before I saw the original and gave this one a proper go once and for all. But the seed had been planted in rather fertile ground.

It’s quite clear to me now that ‘The Omen’ was conceived of as a one-off: the last frames of the picture were shots of Damien holding hands with the President of the United States, who had been close friends with his dad. It was a superb ending: it left us with the chilling notion that Damien was this close to the most powerful position in the world, and that he would exert some sort of influence.

As a closing moment it barely gets more effective.

However, had the filmmakers decided to go down that route, we would have ended up with a child Antichrist who is adopted by the President, seeing this power slip out of his fingers within at the most 8 years – the age of Damien in ‘Damien: Omen II’. Or it would have been a rather disappointing story, with Damien terrorizing the White House – a ridiculous notion at best, given the security there.

Thankfully, someone decided to take ‘Damien: Omen II’ down a radically different path: they decided that Damien would grow in power instead of stumble into it. He would be adopted by his uncle, a rich industrialist with international influence. In so doing, he would be able to inherit economic and political power and learn how to use it over time, as he also learns to use his own unearthly ones.

This would be a good decision because it considered the fact that the surprises of the first picture could not be repeated. By the second part, audiences would  already know who the villain of the piece is. Even more inspired is the notion that the villain doesn’t yet know it, but we do, and that we are privy to the forces of evil’s consolidation of their power, protecting Damien and setting the stage for him.

In essence, ‘Damien: Omen II’ is not your average horror film. Instead of being a sequel in the traditional sense, that is to say trying to give more of the same and surpassing the effect of the previous installment, it takes a logical leap into the future and recounts the manifestation of this ultimate villain’s destiny. And instead of pitting heroes against a villain, it pits a villain against his counter-forces.

Because the picture isn’t as suspenseful as the previous one, which slowly unveiled the devastating truth about Damien, what audiences are offered here is the coalescing of the many elements that are bringing Damien to earthly power – with apostles of evil planted strategically to protect and guide him. The thrills come in watching how cleverly the plan unfolds and seeing how people are “conveniently” tossed out of his way.

And that’s where the chills come from, too: when one considers the powerful conspiracy supporting Damien’s rise, one can’t help but imagine just how possible this scenario could be, if one is a believer: somewhere, the Antichrist could be rising amongst us, rooting himself in a position of power that is so protected that he could barely be endangered. And we wouldn’t know it, or be capable of stopping it from happening.

This is purely an intellectual exercise, of course (unless one is extremely devout), so the picture serves up a few stylized kills to keep the audience on their toes. Compared to ‘The Omen’, the kills here are more grisly, but they can be entertaining – and they’re often preceded by the sight of a crow, who replaces the Rottweiler as an omen and watchful eye. They’re creepy and always bring a sense of dread.

It helps that Jerry Goldsmith returned to score this picture as well, because he incorporated the image of the crow into his music, creating a strange cawing sound that is truly unsettling – especially in tandem with the sight of the birds. While the first score was appropriately Gothic in tone, this one is almost scarier just because of the way it uses non-instrumental sounds to create the mood. Stellar stuff.

Jonathan Scott-Taylor cemented his place in movie history by playing Damien. With his cool gaze, a mixture of innocence and raw intelligence, he was able to make of Damien the perfect untapped resource. We understand him as a boy like most others, happy and balanced, and also understand that there’s more to him than what we are seeing – we know that he’s a bad seed. And that he has yet to tap into his potential.

When Damien finally begins to understand what is ahead for him, he struggles with the notion that he cannot be saved. “Why me?” he asks.  What a moment that must be for him, and it’s quite the poignant one for us, too. Think about it: being a teenager is a confusing enough time without suddenly finding out that your future is pre-ordained – and that you’re the son of Satan. What could anyone do with such a fate?

Torn, he eventually gives in and becomes that which he was always meant to be. The shift in Scott-Taylor’s performance from that point onward is brilliant. There is a discernible change in Damien, an awareness that makes him lethal now, unlike before. Whereas before then Scott-Taylor played him as a regular kid, although a bit stuffy, followed by mild confusion at what was unfolding, he then takes complete control.

The fact that he has supernatural forces working for him (killing off his opponents) as well as human allies, makes him all the more dangerous. Sergeant Daniel Neff (in the form of ever-eerie Lance Henriksen) welcomes him to the military school, and reassures Damien that he will be watched over, while Paul Buher ensures that Thorn Industries is ruthlessly clawing itself into position for Damien. Brrr…

*MAJOR spoiler alert*

But, amongst the most devastating moments of the picture, beyond all the chilling collusion and conspiratorial maneuvers, is the moment when Damien has to face his cousin, Mark, and give him an ultimatum: this is the moment when Damien makes the transition from a carefree boy to an entity of evil – he will not let anyone, even the closest person to him, get in his way. He will destroy all who challenge him. It’s an intense, blood-curdling moment.

*MAJOR spoiler alert*

Unfortunately, the actors are much weaker in this installment. After the grounding force of nature that is Gregory Peck, almost no one could hold up, but most of the actors give B-grade performances.  Scott-Taylor, thankfully, is excellent, but even Henriksen’s delivery is off at times. And don’t get me started on William Holden and Lee Grant, who are perfect for the parts but somehow don’t sell them properly. The supporting cast is mostly unforgettable.

But they don’t take away that much the picture: ‘Damien: Omen II’ is an excellent second part in what would become a three-part story (there are rumours of multiple parts being planned, many including Scott-Taylor, but I don’t know how founded this is). It sets the pieces in place for the ultimate showdown between the forces of good and evil: between Christ himself and the Antichrist.

The ending. Which has Damien walking out of a museum with a fire raging in his wake, looking down the steps with his chin raised, proposing the ultimate defiance and eventual supremacy, was the perfect note on which to end the picture. Instead of ending dramatically, the filmmakers gave us Damien’s assurance that his destiny is inevitable, that there will be no failure. We are compelled to find out if that is true.

Unlike ‘The Exorcist’ series, which shot itself in the foot with the first of its sequels, the producers of the ‘Omen’ series found a way to follow-up their story perfectly. How much method there was to their madness escapes me, but I would go so far as to say that they actually bested the original: it’s one thing to unwrap a conspiracy before an audience’s eyes, it’s an altogether different thing to show it in full swing, like a well-oiled machine.

Personally, I couldn’t possibly find the notion that there is little doubt that events will unfold as planned by the forces of evil more unsettling. The fact that it was done as cleverly cements the belief that this could happen, that Damien is set to become one of the most powerful and evil men on earth. And who can stop him, when everyone who even comes close is swept aside so swiftly? Who can prevent Damien’s rise?

What can one expect from ‘The Final Conflict’, the third part in the trilogy? We shall soon find out…

“For such are false apostles. Deceitful workers whom lie and transform themselves to look like real apostles of Christ.”, II Corinthians, Chapter 11, Verse 13.

Story: 9.0
Acting: 7.0
Production: 8.0

Chills: 6.0
Gore: 4.0
Violence: 6.0

Date of viewing:  September 22, 2013

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