Damien: Omen II

Antichrist kids are so ungrateful these days
★★★★
☆
Released: 
1978
Director: 
Don Taylor
Starring: 
William Holden, Lee Grant, Robert Foxworth, Jonathan Scott-Taylor
The Setup: 
Damien’s a teenager now, finds out who he is and accepts his powers.
Discussion: 

I am going through this site and making it into a bunch of ebooks to be available for Amazon Kindle, and this is revealing films I’ve reviewed before, but the reviews are just so insubstantial as to not even be worth reading, as well as not doing justice to the movie. Such is the case here… my original review, completed soon after I started this site in the first place, did little beyond noting that Lee Grant’s hair in this film makes her entire head resemble a cockhead. Which… it DOES [with urethra, corona, and everything], but still, there is much more to say.

Apparently Mike Hodges of Get Carter and Flash Gordon was set to direct, and completed three weeks of shooting, before he was let go, and current director Don Taylor, who did the early Island of Dr. Moreau and The Final Countdown. So we open in the Middle East somewhere, where the guy who gave the daggers to Damien’s dad in the first one is all freaked at this other guy, because they found some ancient wall in a tomb that depicts the antichrist, and it looks exactly like Damien! He insists that this other guy go look at it because he’s traveling to the US to see Holden as William Thorn, and hey, just as a favor—he could take those cursed daggers over [airline security was different then] and tell adoptive dad that is son is the antichrist and he’ll need to stab him! Okay? Just a little favor.

They go deep, deep [i.e. DEEP, DEEP] into this archaeological dig, see the wall—Goll-dang it, it DOES look exactly like Damien!—and there is promptly an earthquake that buries the both of them, and those precious daggers, under mountains of sand. Cut to Damien, seven years later, who is now in Chicago, which was kind of fun for me, as there are many Chicago locations throughout the film. We see him walking toward the camera, with the flames of a fire rising in front of him, and I SO remember this shot from the TV ads for this movie when it was out, and I was ten. Anyway, he’s at military school, and his uncle Holden and aunt Lee Grant come to pick up him and his step-brother Mark from school. They have to say goodbye to horrid Aunt Marion, who Damien obviously hates, and who warns Mark about him. She is played by Silvia Sydney, acting here as a kind of cut-rate Bette Davis.

Next thing you know, Aunt Marion is at their house, telling mom and dad to separate Damian and Mark, and threatens to disinherit them if they don’t! Dad doesn’t like it, but mom is outraged, and Lee Grant throws some big over-the-top scenes here as she is transported with rage that anyone should say boo about her precious Damien, including the classic line “She poisons the air with her craziness!” Poor Aunt Marion wakes up in the middle of the night with a raven on her bed, and before you know it, she has a heart attack and dies. I personally ask for a bit more florid deaths from my Omen movies, but this movie definitely picks up the slack as it gets toward the end.

There’s a bit of amusement as Holden gets out of a limo and walks away without closing the door, then walks into a downtown apartment building and is suddenly in a vast underground plant… but we later find out that the plant is actually a ways from downtown. Anyway, Richard Foxworth, who most famously appeared on Falcon Crest, is here as Paul, rising star at Thorn industries, whose path to power will be cleared as various people in the movie die. He has a plan that most people find unethical, which is to basically starve people in developing countries for political gain and as a way of forcing them to buy Thorn foodstuffs. I like that the evil plan of the devil’s emissary in business is actually evil—and plausible!

SPOILERS > > >
In here, Damien psychically throws a bully against a wall, and basically makes him feel really bad in front of all the other kids, including Mark, all of whom think he’s a little bit weird from then on. Then a woman dressed in RED, never really got her connection to anyone, forces her way into a car with Holden and tells him to get rid of Damien. He throws her out, so she goes and finds Grant and tells her the same thing, but when asked flat out what she wants, she suddenly gets spooked and says “I’m not sure, really…” and walks off in a daze, which was kind of effective. Soon she’s driving when her car dies, the raven attacks her, and, blood running down from her eyes [we don’t see them plucked out, which is a surprise given the gore in the film later], she wanders into the road when the only passing Mack truck for miles happens by and launches her body 40 feet! By the way, by now you’ll have noticed that there’s faux Carmina Burana urgent Latin chant music every time something scary happens.

Well, cut right to cheerful winter fun as it’s Mark’s birthday, and the family is having a big frozen riverside barbeque [I thought it was strange, too] and boys and adults are playing ice hockey. I got a few chuckles out of Lee Grant in a few cutaway shots to the window, where she’s laughing at WHAT FUN those boys are having! Foxworth’s Paul cozies up to Damien and tells him that he has a bright future at Thorn industries, and he should come on down to the plant and take a tour. Then one of the better deaths in this film, as a guy [Bill? Who is he?] suddenly falls through the ice, and slides along, taken by the current, struggling visibly just below the skaters. He can’t crawl out through the one mysterious hole in the ice with a tree, and eventually just buys it. But the whole scene is grand and overblown in the best way, and it’s a memorably creative death. I only wish I knew who Bill was! I guess he’s one of the Thorn guys to get out of the way so Paul can advance.

In here Lance Heinriksen [come on, you knew there had to be Lance Heinriksen, right?] tells him the whole 666 thing, and tells him to read the Book of Revelations to find out who he is. Damien does, and has a brief freak-out as he runs out to the very end of a dock and yells “Why me?” That would be the end of the soul-searching for your young antihero, but while he does glower nicely, I suspect not too much can be asked of this actor. Then all the boys go visit the Thorn plant—notice the small, cardboard “Thorn Industries” sign at the door, much cheaper than actually dressing a real building with a sign, I suppose. There is, of course, the expected industrial accident while they’re there, where all the kids have to witness the death of a scientist. Another Thorn bigwig buys it as well, putting evil Paul right under Holden. Mark and Paul are taken to the hospital, and the doctor tells Holden that something’s not right with Damien’s blood. Holden is starting to get the slightest bit unnerved.

Well, the doctor works late in the lab, and finds that Damien actually has jackal blood! I think it would actually be quite a while before a medical doctor came to that conclusion, but I won’t quibble. He’s on his way to show someone the results when—ye olde malfunctioning elevator! You think it’s going to fall straight down and smash him, but then it stops! So you think he’s okay, but no, the weights, with this industrial-strength wire, come down and slice the poor guy right in half! You actually get a brief glimpse of guts of his severed torso! That was a surprise—I didn’t think this movie was prepared to go that gory. And—for such a minor character? Like, barely a character at all? Well, whatever!

We now cut to the Thorn Museum of Art [this time they did spring for a big sign] and find not art, but dinosaur bones and Egyptian mummies inside. This is because it’s just the Chicago Field museum, which is a natural history museum. There, this minor character who I haven’t been paying much attention to receives the old daggers, now dug up, and locks them in his office drawer. He also gets a letter from the old man at the beginning detailing the whole thing. He calls Holden, and Mark overhears the phone call, and that Damien is the antichrist. He’s all upset the next day, and he tells Damian what the problem is [he's not necessarily the brightest]. Damien offers that they could be antichrist buddies, but Mark isn’t having this, and after some Damien trauma of the “don’t make me do this!” variety, he kills Mark bloodlessly. Pretty tame, I think—Mark got off pretty easy. Anyway, this is what it takes to get Dad to look into it further.

Dad tells mom he’s off to New York, but actually meets the guy who got the daggers and they go to these train yards on Chicago’s southern side [this empty space is all developed now, so it was interesting to see], where the wall showing Damien has been excavated and lies on one of those trains. The guy stands outside while Dad looks inside, seeing the incriminating portrait [I don’t know, I think the long line of accidents is more convincing proof], and suddenly believes. But too late for his hapless friend, as a train car comes forward, and the latch somehow, um LATCHES itself to him, and carries him like a hundred feet, screaming all the way. It is, I’m afraid, more than a little ridiculous, as we don’t see the thing actually CLOSE on his leg, so it looks like he is just STUCK to the train as it carries him forward forever. It also seems like he could just jump off at any time, but we’ll just have to believe he couldn’t, okay? He is soon crushed when the latch meets another train car, although the film goes soft on the gore we deserve here. What, some WALK ON gets the goriest death of the film? That’s how it is.

Well, now Holden is back at the Thorn museum, trying to find the daggers in that guy’s office, when who should show up, but Lee! I don’t think she even says anything about the fact that he was supposed to be in New York. Anyway, he spills that Damien is the antichrist and has to die, and she goes right up to Lee Grant 11 [which is formidable] as she refuses to hear even a negative word about Damien! OH, and who should also be showing up at the museum, for no good reason, but Damien. Anyway, Lee has the daggers, Holden demands them, and then she stabs him with them, saying “There’s your daggers! I’ve always belonged to him!” Which was kind of an unexpected surprise. I think it would have been a delightful ending if Damien and Mom had gone off together at the end, knowing that she’ll protect him over the next few years, but no. There’s a sudden explosion, and she’s incinerated. THAT’S the thanks she gets! Kids are so ungrateful these days. Anyway, Damien is honored at the military academy, and that’s it, folks!

Before we leave the spoilers, I must say I suspect that the sudden reversal, with Mom killing for Damien, was probably a last-minute change. It’s just not very well set up in the film. Yes, mom defended Damien throughout, but we never really see her be particularly warm with him, or do anything specially to help him, or make any plans that thwart his enemies… so while the sudden ending doesn’t ring false, it also doesn’t completely ring true. And if she were his protector, he could still use her and wouldn’t torch her at the end. So I have no evidence, but I’d bet $10 that the ending was changed at the last minute.
< < < SPOILERS END

It’s pretty good fun. Of course, it appears quite tame today, but it still manages to be compelling and keep us interested. Which is kind of a challenge, as we basically know everything that’s going to happen in the film—a bunch of people are going to die, Damien is never going to be in any real danger, and he’s going to walk away unscathed at the end. Maybe there was tension back in the day when these were being released, but now we watch them knowing full well that there is no way Damien will be defeated [until it’s “The Final Chapter,” when we know there will be some arbitrary thing at the end that defeats him]. So the fun is in the deaths, which this film ratchets up considerably from the first, and goes quite florid with, with spectacular ones in the guy under the ice, the elevator killing and the train one, in addition to the others. These films are also precursors to the ingenious Final Destination films, in that there is no killer, just a series of circumstances that result in some pretty creative, and ingenious deaths. I also think the ultra-serious tone of these films helps makes them silly fun. Anyway, a good time awaits.

Should you watch it: 

You sure should, if you love those vintage 70s "presitige" horror films.

Comments

Those first two are priceless! They could be lobby cards from 1966's brassiest Eurocomedy.

You know just how to sweet-talk me.

I remember your original review, laughing at your description of how the music just EXPLODES. That said, I think Jerry Goldsmith's scores to all of the movies in the trilogy were great. Each was somewhat different and yet thematically connected to the others. The music for the final film, considered to be the worst movie of the lot ("cinematic garbage" according to the S.F. Chronicle critic) was grandly beautiful as well as sinister.

The music is crucial to the Omen movies but especially the first two. I don't really remember the use of music in the third one but I remember even the fourth one had a pretty solid little score that made the whole thing a little more freaky.

Good review Scott! I love your horror content! :)

Your prepping Kindle compatible versions of your reviews! Really? I would LOVE that, where do I sign up?

Because honestly, I'm going in like "No one will want these, it's available free on the web..."

What I'm doing is compiling little ebooks of 10 reviews each, so far I have Early Gay Films, Disaster Films, Time Travel Movies, and "HUH?" Horror [bizarre horror]. Just search for "Scott Telek" or Cinema de Merde on Amazon... please let me know what you think. Or any suggestions. There are more to come!

But new reviews will still be on the web, if that's what you're looking for....

How right you are!
Still, I don't see why he had to kill her if he had her as such a staunch defender...

but I think the lady in the red coat, who gets her eyes pecked out, is the girlfriend of the journalist in the first movie, who was decapitated by the flying plate of glass.

Also, my Kindle will soon have you in it.

Thanks for your interest in one of the Kindle books, but please tell me--just for market research purposes--why you'd want it since you already get reviews for free on the site. This is just because I went into it like "No one who already reads the site for free will want these Kindle books..." But it's great news, and very motivating! I'll have a lot more books coming. If you want, write me at cinemademerde@gmail.com...

..as far as I know, is a rather popular interpretation of Revelation. That is, The Antichrist will be in a position to somehow do that. I think it was generally thought of as a power derived from being a head of state (which Damien becomes in the next movie) but the idea he'd get there first as head of some corporation is pretty cool. Evil and plausible indeed!

(Personally I'm worried about the coming of the Semichrist. His number shall be 333).