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Damien: Omen II

Review by: 
Suicide Blonde
Release Date: 
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
Don Taylor
William Holden
Lee Grant
Jonathan Scott-Taylor
Bottom Line: 

 Omen 2 starts off just a few days after The Omen ended (you’d be lost if you hadn’t seen the first movie so I won’t summarize; if you’re going to watch Omen 2 be sure you watch The Omen first). Bugenhagen, the archeologist who gave Gregory Peck the magic daggers needed to kill Damien, has just found a mural which includes an Identi-Kit portrait of Damien not only at age 5, but at age 12. Very convenient, that, but unfortunately Bugenhagen and some unlucky bastard who accompanied him to gawk at the mural are buried alive in a cave-in.
(Note to aspiring screenwriters – if you’re trying to create an atmosphere of dread, it helps if you don’t give characters giggle-inducing names like “Bugenhagen”.)
Jump forward seven years, and we find everybody’s favorite Antichrist Damien Thorn (Jonathan Scott-Taylor, channeling Draco Malfoy), living with his wealthy uncle Richard (William Holden), aunt Ann (Lee Grant), and cousin Mark (Lucas Donat) in Chicago.
Everything is hunky-dory except that Richard’s ancient Aunt Marion (Sylvia Sidney) hates Damien and doesn’t want Damien and Mark to go to the same military academy together. So far the worst we’ve seen Damien do is try to mooch cigarettes off the chauffer, but Aunt Marion’s suspicions are enough to make her the first of many victims of mysterious deaths. In this case, it’s a heart attack induced by an evil raven (who is always accompanied by a peculiar retching sound on the soundtrack).
So Mark and Damien are off to military school, where their new sergeant, Neff, is played by Lance Henriksen, astonishingly baby-faced and smooth-voiced (guess he hadn’t started hitting the cigarettes yet). Neff is the first to drop some hints about Damien’s true nature. Similar hints are dropped by Buher (terminally bland Robert Foxworth), a Thorn Corporation employee who yammers about profiting from famine a lot. And some people start figuring out that the boy ain’t right, and meeting nasty ends.
In other words, it’s a lot like the first movie, only without the novelty of “discovering” that Damien is the son of Satan. The only mysteries are (a) is Damien going to find out he’s the Antichrist and (b) what will he do when he finds out. Since the answers are, respectively, yes and nothing much, all that’s left to create suspense is to wonder who’s going to die, and how yucky will the demise be.
Technically Damien: Omen 2 is all right. Director Don Taylor’s credits are mostly in television and it shows: the cinematography has a flat, muddy look and there isn’t a single interesting shot, scene, or edit. The score is less bombastic than that of the first movie. The death scenes are more ludicrous or imaginative, depending on your frame of mind, but the effects are good and a couple deaths are genuinely creepy.
But it’s the screenplay for Damien: Omen 2 that kills the film. It’s a slapdash affair, enough to make you wonder if they lost the final script and were working from an early draft. Much mention is made of the Whore of Babylon statue, but it’s forgotten after the first third or so. Likewise, the film is clearly setting up Neff and Buher as two of the Four Horsemen (War and Famine). But we never get Pestilence or Death; either the concept was abandoned or they were saving those two for the sequel. Even the Retching Raven of Doom gets forgotten after the first half.
Where the film fails most grievously is when Damien learns he is the Antichrist. He flees his dorm and runs to the nearby lake, where he screams, “Why? Why me?” The movie could have taken an interesting route, and shown us Damien fighting against and eventually succumbing to his evil nature. Unfortunately, after that outburst Damien seems pretty much OK with being what and who he is. (And who can blame him, really? He can smite people who piss him off, be unharmed by poison gas, and is a total chick magnet at the academy’s cotillion. Superman didn’t have it that good!)
Even the gory deaths are ultimately failures. The decapitation of David Warner in The Omen worked not just because it was a shocking effect, but because Warner’s character was interesting and had audience sympathy. Omen 2’s comparable death scene, the elevator scene, is flashy and gory but happens to a character we’ve barely met and don’t care about, and the impact just isn’t the same.
Even the DVD extras are on a much lesser scale than Omen 2’s predecessor. There’s a commentary by producer Harvey Bernhard, trailers for all three Omen movies, and trailers for other 20th Century Fox films (the extra I was most excited about was the trailer for Titus). 

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