DECEMBER 15, 2008
The most interesting thing about Damien: Omen II is how the death scenes seem to have influenced the minds behind the Final Destination kill sequences. Almost no one just dies in this movie, there is always a chain of events preceding it. Most striking is an elevator kill late in the film. Does the elevator just crash to the ground and kill the guy like in a regular movie? Nah, after it hits, a pair of weights connected by a thick cable fall from the top of the shaft, slicing through the top of the car and cutting the victim in half. It makes no fucking sense at all, but it’s still pretty awesome. The original had one too (the decapitation), but it seems to be the rule rather than the exception here.
And it’s actually a much better sequel than I expected. Like the original, it’s a classy killer kid movie; silly deaths aside, the concept isn’t played for dark humor like other KK movies. Of course, you don’t get actors like William Holden unless you’re taking things serious, so I guess I should have known better right from the start. It’s not as terrifying, but it’s suspenseful enough, and the storyline is interesting without copying too much from the original. There’s a great scene about halfway through when a teacher grills Damien about historical dates, all of which Damien seemingly knows before the teacher even finishes asking. Given how terrible I am at remembering dates, I wholeheartedly accept exceptional skill at it to be the Devil’s work.
One thing that bummed me out though was the relative lack of military school sequences compared to the ones revolving around the Thorn company. The idea of an Antichrist wreaking havoc on fellow soldiers-in-training, hardass captains, etc is particularly enticing, but Damien actually spends most of his scenes in or around the home of his adoptive parents or taking factory tours. This story decision is even more frustrating when you consider the fact that Damien’s watcher at the academy is played by a young(er) Lance Henriksen. As a result, Lance only has like 3 scenes (none of which really explain how he knows what Damien is, though the IMDb trivia helped me out there), which is 1-2 less than the number of scenes that some random Thorn executive has.
There’s also a death setpiece that would not be possible unless it was winter. Why does every killer kid movie seem to have a pre-occupation with ice and/or snow? The Good Son, Godsend, Devil Times Five, Cathy’s Curse, Whisper...
I also like how Damien still seems to be rather oblivious to his powers for the first hour or so It would have been easy to have him as a malevolent teenager purposely doing harm on those who bother him, but again, he seems rather innocent until the third act, and even then he's hardly a power-hungry villain; he still acts human and evokes sympathy. The only problem I really had with the remake of the original was that Damien was a hateful little bastard (that and it was otherwise the exact same movie, albeit with a better graveyard scene IMO). I assume that the next two movies has Damien in full on villain mode, but it was fun while it lasted.
The only extra is a commentary with producer Harry Bernhard, moderated by J.M. Kenny (who was responsible for getting this box set together). Like most producers who offer commentary tracks when the writer or director is MIA, he seems to be a giant blowhard who belittles the work of those who you would rather be listening to, and yet tries to sound like he’s the good guy in the whole thing (when discussing original director Mike Hodges, he merely points out that “they didn’t see eye to eye”, then reveals that replacement director Don Taylor is married to a good friend of his, offering no other qualifications for a man who directed only TV movies both before and after his work on this film). Most annoying is when he gets annoyed about the red dress that Joan Hart wears. “I don’t want anyone to think that I had anything to do with that red dress!” he barks. Well, why would they? You’re a fucking producer. Your job is to make sure that the director has all of the red dresses that he fucking wants as long as it fits into the budget. He also spends a good chunk of the time talking about all the great actors he found and all the great locations he selected, instead of explaining why he hasn’t managed to make a movie since 1991 (the TV movie Omen IV). Maybe Big Red Dress had him exiled. To be fair though, he is also largely responsible for Jerry Goldsmith’s return, which gave the film an extra layer of legitimacy.
Finally, I would like to point out that the repeated use of the phrase “born of a jackal” gave me pleasant thoughts of Ludo as I watched the film. “She moves through moonbeams slowly, she knows just how to hold me. And when her edges soften, her body is my coffin!”
What say you?