Damien: Omen II (1978)
(Release Date: 6.9.78)

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The Kids Aren't All Right!

J.C. Maçek III... Not such a BAD critic!!!
J.C. Maçek III
The World's Greatest Critic!

Not everyone was quite the fan of The Omen that I am. Some consider it pretty low on the old Horror Totem Pole. Those who aren't fans of The Omen really don't like Damien: Omen II. But then again, many fans of The Omen aren't big fans of Damien: Omen II. Hell, the makers of The Omen aren't big fans of Damien: Omen II.

However, it's really not that bad. Producer Harvey Bernhard wrote the story for this film (as he did for the fourth in the series). Also, like the fourth in the series, this second featured the skills of two directors. And for similar reasons. Original director Mike Hodges was replaced by Don Taylor who finished this horror flick only one day over schedule. Hodges' scenes still exist in the finished film however. It's just too bad they couldn't get old Dick Donner back. Unfortunately, he was busy directing Superman II at the time.

Interestingly enough, Donner was fired from Superman II and replaced by Richie Lester. Donner's scenes still exist in the finished film however. Omen Curse indeed!

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Part of the 2006 Summer of Horror!
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  1. The Omen (1976)
  2. Omen III: The Final Conflict (1980)
  3. Omen IV: The Awakening (1991)
  4. The Omen (2006)

In the original The Omen, the suspense is created not just by the chilling supernatural undertones, but by the uncertainty found in the film. Is Damien the Antichrist, or a victim of circumstance? No one knows, or in fact, believes until its too late. Instead of a Horror Movie, The Omen is considered by many (including director Dick Donner) to be a mystery suspense thriller. In Damien: Omen II, there are many fewer questions, at least among the audience. We know damned well that Damien Thorn is the son of the devil, and everyone in the movie (but him) also seems to know it. There's also little question that Damien: Omen II is a Horror Movie.

In fact, the second film is lighter on mystery and creepiness and heavier on overt scares and murders than its predecessor. Jonathan Scott-Taylor's now tween to teenaged Damien comes off as more of a supernatural serial killer than a mysterious and evil adversary, like my boss.

When we last saw our little hell spawn, his (earthly) father was thwarted in his plans to murder him, and he was now safe and sound in the care of yet another loving family, and smiling that huge, evil smile. This is exactly where Stanley Mann and Mike Hodges's screenplay picks up. Leo McKern's renegade archeologist Carl Bugenhagen has finally found proof in Israel of Damien's identity, and he's paid back in kind.

Seven years later, Damien Thorn is happily in the care of Robert Thorn's brother Richard (William Holden, who had previously turned down the lead in the original film) and Richard's wife Ann (Lee Grant). His best friend is his brotherly cousin Mark (Fritz Ford), and he is excelling at the military school he's enrolled in. However, Damien is not normal and almost everyone seems to detect this to one degree or other. Woe to those who cross Damien, because if he doesn't get you, some other watchful force will.

There are, of course, good guys in this film! However, just who is a good guy, and just who is a "Disciple of the Watch" is pretty well unknown (at least at first). Lance Henriksen is great as Damien's military school instructor Master Sergeant Daniel Neff. He's joined by Robert Foxworth's Paul Buher, Allan Arbus' Pasarian, Nicholas Pryor's Dr. Charles Warren, Sylvia Sidney's Aunt Marion, Elizabeth Shepherd's Joan Hart and Meshach Taylor's Designing Dr. Kane . While their allegiances reveal themselves eventually, let me tell you, who each person proves to be and what their motivations are can be surprising.

The core of the story is, of course, Damien himself and his discovery of who he is. Yes, Scott-Taylor is relatively creepy as the title character, but not to the extent that his younger self was in the previous film. Here, we're given an introspective young man with similar scares and confusions that any 13 year old might face. Oh, we know well we're supposed to hate this little bastard, but kids, somehow we manage to feel a little sympathy for him, as we do with some of the great screen monsters.

As Damien discovers who he really is, so does his uncle and surrogate father. Holden is fantastic as Richard Thorn, paralleling Damien's discoveries, and picking up where Bugenhagen (and Robert Thorn) left off. While this is great to see, it's Holden's acting that really sells this.

Why does it need to be "sold", though? Well, kids, this is basically the exact same dénouement that the first film gave us. Thankfully it's spiced up beautifully and Holden and Grant have the acting chops to pull this all off, especially when the surprises come. Still, its hard not to feel that this has been done before and might be a bit of a retread.

Omen II can be a very violent and gory movie, much more than any other in the series, really. The famed "decapitation scene" from the first film is not only matched but topped (from a fright standpoint, anyway) in multiple scenes. The special effects by Ira Anderson Jr. are a good compliment to the Collection of Deaths theme that Omen II offers up. Also to be praised are the makeup effects by Robert Dawn and Lillian Toth.

But what really nails the horrific temper, the pure fear factor and mood here, is the return of Jerry Goldsmith as Composer. Goldsmith won an Oscar for his score for the first film, and does a fantastic job here in following it up beautifully.

Damien: Omen II is a horror movie and a relatively obvious one at that. However, it's also pretty damned good obvious horror movie. It's got its flaws, to be sure, but it's fully worth Three and One Half Stars out of Five. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got quite a lot to finish up right now. I'm much less concerned about the number 666, and much more concerned about the number 9.9.6... as in September 9, 2006, the final day of the Summer of Horror. With all these horror reviews, do you want to know what scares me? Do you want to know what really scares me? Deadlines! I'm afraid to see you in the next reel!

Damien? Damien?
Put that dog down, Damien!
Click here for more reviews instead, Thorn Bird!

Damien: Omen II (1978) reviewed by J.C. Maçek III
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