Horror Bob Presents: The Horror Review

 Damien: The Omen II (1978)

 Film Title:   Damien: The Omen II Year Released:  1978
Reviewed By: Egregious Gurnow
Movie Website: N/A
Overall Stars: ** Scare Factor: *1/2


   Damien:  Omen II is an effort to further develop the theme of the Antichristís ascent in the world as first revealed in The Omen.  However, in lieu of the fact that William Holden (after turning down the starring role in the original) plays Damienís father, the script suffers from a lack of focus despite the fact it attempted to present a parable for the evils of big business.   

   Seven years after the close of The Omen, Damien Thorn (Jonathan Scott-Taylor) is found living in Chicago with his adopted aunt and uncle, Richard and Ann (William Holden, Sunset Blvd., The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Wild Bunch, Stalag 17,  Network and Lee Gran, In the Heat of the Night), as well as his cousin, Mark (Lucas Donat).  The boys are enrolled in a military academy where Damien excels as Richard continues to built his corporate empire, Thorn Industries.  Strange deaths begin occurring around Damien as Richard slowly consents to the fact that his adopted nephew may be the Antichrist.

   Director Don Taylor shifts the threat of malevolence from politics to big business in the sequel to The Omen.  We watch as the CEOís of Thorn Industries quibble over ethics in relation to the Almighty Dollar as Richard becomes President of the company at a time when the company is in the process of aiding (i.e. exploiting) starving third world countries.  In this sense, the theme of evil is aptly presented as Richard hides behind humanitarian motives in order to gain a larger profit margin. 

   Parallel to Richardís development is Damienís unaccountable omniscience in the classroom as he displays a scholarly knowledge of history (remember John Miltonís aptitude for languages in The Devilís Advocate?).  Again, a satanic apostate appears to help lead Damien to his destiny.  Having outgrown a nanny, Damienís mentor is now a history instructor named Paul Buher (Lance Henriksen, Aliens). 

   Taylorís continuation of the saga of Damienís ascension to the throne of Dark King of the World begins quite quickly and retains its pace throughout (compensating for the flaccid narrative speed of it predecessor).  We are presented with a Cassandra character, a journalist named Joan Hart (Elizabeth Shepherd), who is hastily dispatched, not by a rottweiler as Damienís protective animal representative, but by Poeian raven as it scratches out her eyes, leading to her untimely death by a oncoming speeding semi, prior to her disclosing her discovery of Damienís true identity.  The storylineís weight is then compounded by Damien, perhaps rather inconsistently, discovering who he is (he seemed intuitively aware of his fate in the first film), and then renouncing his plight prior to--without justification--readily accepting it.  Aptly, the theme of the Four Horsemen is slyly symbolized, yet is done so weakly and to no effective ends (I am leaning toward Mann and Hodgesís inadvertent symbolic application here):  death, famine (Thorn Industriesí tentative plans to expand into starving third-world nations), war (military academy), and pestilence (a developmental fertilizer/pesticide contaminates and infects Damienís class while on tour of Thorn Industries) are seen but never developed to any functional ends.

   As with the Alien trilogy, the first film in the Omen series is a thriller while its successor exhibits a more action-driven agenda.  Yet, in the wake of the above-mentioned strengths, the film does not congeal thematically atop offering little conflict.  Characters are introduced as mere set pieces in order to allow onscreen demises (the pacing echoes a slasher film).  Little is developed in the character of Damien or his counterparts and screenwriters Stanley Mann and Mike Hodges allow the opportunity for a genuine conflict between Damien and his diametrically-opposed benevolent cousin to carry the film (Mark is nonchalantly dispatched by Damien with little effect or consequence) to pass by the wayside.  Furthermore, the metaphor for the malevolence of adolescence is not seized upon and developed (though the groundwork for such was laid bare at the offset).  The film ends, unabashedly signaling the next installment, rashly and anticlimactically, to the viewerís disappointment.  Oddly, Jerry Goldsmith returned from his Oscar-winning score from the first film to create a dud of a soundtrack which, at best, can only be ignored.

   Though not unwatchable, Damien:  Omen II had the potential to offer pointed criticism of the ethics of big business and an examination of adolescence but fails to deliver on either count.  Instead, Don Taylor presents us with a action-driven,  run-of-the-mill slasher pic hiding under the name of theological horror sans the climatic finale.


 -Egregious Gurnow


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