Damien: Omen II

04/03/2020 06:31

Film: Omen II: Damien

Year: 1978

Director: Don Taylor

Writer: Stanley Mann and Mike Hodges

Starring: William Holden, Lee Grant and Jonathan Scott-Taylor

 

Review:

The first time that I saw this movie was probably in college. I know that I saw it soon after seeing the original. To be honest though, I didn’t remember a lot about it. I was intrigued to give this one a rewatch for sure. The synopsis is Damien (Jonathan Scott-Taylor) the Antichrist, now about to turn 13 years old, finally learns of his destiny under the guidance of an unholy disciple of Satan. Meanwhile dark forces begin to eliminate all those who suspect the child’s true identity.

We start soon after the events of the first movie. Carl Bugenhagen (Leo McKern) reaches out to an archeologist Michael (Ian Hendry). Bugenhagen tries to convince him to reach out to Richard Thorn (William Holden) who is the brother to Robert. Richard and his wife Ann (Lee Grant) are taking in Damien. Michael doesn’t understand why he wants to put this crazy old man in touch and Bugenhagen takes him to an ancient wall that depicts Damien as the Antichrist. There’s a crow that is watching over this and makes the temple collapse, trapping the two men.

The movie then shifts 7 years into the future. Damien is now Scott-Taylor. Along with his cousin, Mark (Lucas Donat) they go a military academy together. As they prepare to head back to school, their aunt Marion (Sylvia Sidney) expresses her displeasure directly to Damien. She likes Mark, but doesn’t trust the other boy. She even states that she wants him sent away to not poison Mark. His adopted parents won’t hear any of it and a crow visits her that night.

At school they have a new commanding officer, Sergeant Neff (Lance Henriksen). He tells both of the Thorn boys that despite their heritage at the school, they won’t be given special treatment. He does take special interest in Damien.

At work, Richard is co-workers with Bill Atherton (Lew Ayres). They’re trying to figure out the next plan and Atherton isn’t too found of what Paul Buher (Robert Foxworth) wants to do. It involves controlling the growth of food for profit and he’s told to shelve it for now. Much like others though, an accident happens to him as well.

Charles Warren (Nicholas Pryor) is especially close to Ann and runs the Thorn Museum. A reporter he knows, Joan Hart (Elizabeth Shepherd) really wants to speak with Richard. It seems she believes that Damien is the Antichrist and that if they don’t take action, it will spell the end of the world. He doesn’t believe it, but as strange things keep happening around the boy, he starts to question it himself.

I should probably start this off stating my biggest worry with sequels is to not violate continuity which I think this one does a really good job if I’m honest. It starts us pretty close after the original one ended, before jumping us into the future with a new story. This all really worked for me.

To get into more of the meat of this movie, I really like that it is exploring Christianity and more in-depth to the Book of Revelations in the New Testament. Damien though still has no idea and I like that. He’s just a normal kid that gives some people creepy vibes, but it feels natural. What is scary here though is that there are people that know who he is, on both sides. I don’t want to reveal them, but I think it is interesting how they fit into the four horsemen of the apocalypse where one of them uses the word Famine, one of the riders and another one is in the military so that could be considered War or I guess possibly Conquest. These are just cool aspects that are worked into the story with how I’m seeing it.

This film does seem to be a mirror to the original as well. Richard and Robert do not believe what people are telling them. I think part of that is their standing in society, but it also is ludicrous. We as viewers see things they don’t so we know, but I like that they ground this in reality with this. I do like this one being different that Ann doesn’t suspect him where his original mother did. Also giving Damien a bigger part and discovering a bit of himself as he’s coming into puberty adds a level here to set it apart. It is really setting the stage for how the prophecy plays out as we learn just how powerful the Thorn family is.

If I did have any issues it would come with how the story plays out though. I’ve already said that there’s a lot of it that just works for me, but when I got about an hour or so into it, I thought the movie was lacking a bit of direction. Not enough to ruin it, but I just couldn’t feel where it was going to take us. I think part of that is what happens to Joan and just how far it felt from having one of his parents change his mind on this boy. I will say that I never got bored and I like how it ends, but that’s just how it felt as it was playing out for me.

Moving this to the acting, I thought that Holden was really good. He plays a similar role to that of Gregory Peck and I think both help to ground their respective characters. It feels natural their change in what they believe and I liked it. Grant is a good counterpoint to him. She firmly believes that Damien is good and she loves Mark as well. I like that plus how her character stays the same while her husband changes. Scott-Taylor at first was annoying, but his performance grew on him. It actually feels that he gets more confident as it goes on even. I thought it was fun to see a young Henriksen here as Neff, he did good. I also thought that Foxworth, Pryor, Ayres, Sidney, Shepherd and Allan Arbus help to round this out for what was needed. I also didn’t mind Donat, but as teen actor he wasn’t great. Definitely not bad though by any stretch either.

Something I did have some slight issues with would be the effects. There was a dummy death that wasn’t great. I did like everything else in that sequence before it. The effects were done practical, which I prefer, but this one I thought took a step back as they tried to ramp it up a bit more. They just didn’t necessarily work for me. The cinematography though was really good, I will give it that.

The last thing to cover would be the soundtrack. I’m glad they followed suit with their predecessor in sticking with the choir music that is singing in Latin. It makes it feel religious and quite eerie. I would listen to this soundtrack while I’m writing if I’m going to be honest as it does bring an uneasy feeling for sure. It helps to drive the tension for sure.

Now with that said, I was a bit nervous about seeing this movie, wondering how this would follow up a classic. I think this does a really good job in continuing to build the story and the mythology. I like pushing it into the future so they could do more with Damien and bringing him into puberty where he was just a child in the original. I thought his acting from Scott-Taylor and the rest of the cast was good. The story doesn’t seem as focused, but not enough to ruin it. The soundtrack fit and helps to build the tension. The effects were hit or miss if I’m going to be honest, but I think it was shot very well overall aside from that. Especially when we see things happening that are supernatural, but in the scheme of the movie, the characters do not. I think that helps to ground this movie in reality. I would rate this movie as good movie and solid follow up for sure. I think this could be watched by itself, but I recommend it with the original to get the full story.

 

My Rating: 8 out of 10