“This is the way the world ends/Not with a bang but a whimper.”
This was how T. S. Eliot ended his brilliant poem “The Hollow Men”, and these words also nicely sum up how the Omen series ends.
The Final Conflict opens promisingly with a wordless sequence showing a construction crew unearthing the seven daggers that can kill the Antichrist. These daggers go up for auction and find their way into the hands of Father DeCarlo (Rossano Brazzi, in a nicely dignified performance) who enlists the help of six other monks to form a posse to go after the Antichrist.
The Antichrist is, of course, our old fiend, I mean, friend, Damien Thorn (Sam Neill in one of his earliest roles). Damien’s all growed up now, and is the head of the ridiculously powerful and wealthy Thorn Corporation. Despite what the incredibly misleading DVD cover would have you believe, Damien is NOT President of the United States, though he is contemplating a Senate run in a couple years. The job he’s currently angling for is that of ambassador to England. Then the current ambassador has a very convenient and quite gory shotgun suicide (induced by one of those demonic Rottweilers from the first movie), leaving the post of ambassador open. (P. S. Damien gets the job.)
Why ambassador to England, you ask? Well, after consulting a totally fictitious book of the Bible, Damien has determined that not only is Christ about to be reborn (which will put a definite crimp in Damien’s apocalyptic plans) but will be reborn in England. Father DeCarlo and his monks have figured this out too, and head off to England.
This is where the movie goes downhill. Never mind the fact that in the previous two films it was clearly stated that all seven daggers were needed to kill Damien and in The Final Conflict, just one will do (consistency has never been this franchise’s strong suit); the real problem is that most of the monks have apparently graduated from the Keystone Kops school of stealth and agility. This wouldn’t be so bad, except that the monks meet their ends in ways either hopelessly mundane (mistakenly stabbed, falling off a bridge) to laugh-out-loud ridiculous – Death By Snoopy, indeed.
The movie comes close to redeeming itself with a genuinely creepy sequence in which Damien’s followers are given the task of killing all male babies born on a particular night, to eliminate the new Christ child. Though not explicit at all the sequence is chilling not just because it breaks the cinematic taboo of death and children, but because so many of Damien’s followers are children themselves, or people in positions of trust, including a nurse and a priest.
This sequence aside, the whole movie just seems obligatory. Director Graham Baker shows no flair or enthusiasm. The Christ child subplot is resolved so ambiguously as to be almost incoherent (this was the second time I’d seen the film and I still wasn’t sure what had happened). The Final Conflict lacks The Omen’s deep seriousness and courage of its convictions, or Omen 2’s “Ain’t THAT a nasty way to go!” death scenes.
The actors try hard. Sam Neill, despite a terrible haircut and a tendency to smirk too much, gives it his all but can’t overcome the lethargy of the film. Rossano Brazzi is to this film what David Warner was to The Omen – a voice of calm belief and reason, who knows not only what is going on but how unbelievable it seems to an average person. And Lisa Harrow stands out as Kate, a TV journalist who falls for Damien, then learns some unpleasant truths about him, and must make some hard choices.
The Final Conflict has one of the weaker endings I’ve seen. While it makes sense theologically for ultimate evil to not stand much of a chance against ultimate good, there had to be a more satisfying way to resolve this than the Hallmark card ending the movie gives us. I give it points for sincerity, but that’s all.
The DVD extras are pretty much the same as for the Damien: Omen 2 disc – an undistinguished commentary by director Graham Baker, trailers for all three Omen films, and trailers for other Fox releases. Nothing to write home about, but the same can be said for The Final Conflict itself.