I’ve mentioned this a couple of other times around these parts, but the spiritual link between the Omen and Final Destination franchises is fairly well defined but it’s probably most pronounced when watching the sequel to Richard Donner’s splendid dose of satanic panic The Omen. While the first in each series took their time setting up their respective concepts while giving the devil his due and paying the reaper, the sequel instead would fast track things, exchanging plot and characterization for a constant stream of showstopping deaths each more convoluted and spectacular than the one before.
What was true of Final Destination 2 in 2003 is doubly true of Damian: Omen II back in 1978 as original director Mike (Get Carter, Flash Gordon) Hodges was fired for moving the production too slowly in favour of Don (Escape From The Planet Of The Apes, The Final Countdown) Taylor. So crank up the volume on Jerry Goldsmith’s revised score and prepare to witness a steady stream of work and home related incidents that no amount of obsessive compulsive safety proofing would stop.
Seven years after ambassador Robert Thorne was shot dead trying to kill his infant “son” Damien while under the belief that the adopted nipper is actually the antichrist who is foretold to make a startling accent in the world of American politics. The bad news is Robert was bang on the money, the even worse news is that the spawn of Lucifer’s loins has been adopted by his uncle and is about to start at a prestigious military acadamy with his cousin Mark (with a “young” Lance Henriksen as his commanding officer) and any thing that gets in his way is swiftly taken off the board by a random heart attack here and a freak accident there.
This is essentially the whole plot, as everyone from a snooping reporter to a doctor with a damning blood result fall before the all powerful deus ex machina of satan’s master plan – but as I have more space to fill I suppose I better elaborate on some B-plot stuff too. For example, Thorn Industries have started indulging in some dodgy business practices that could be described as immoral in order to build up an empire for the infernal boy-king in waiting; and then there’s the socially awkward matter of finally telling Damien himself of his true parentage (breaking it to him that his mother was an actual jackal is gonna take epic amounts of tact I certainly wouldn’t be capable of) and preping for his unholy task.
However, the powers of good, while slow on the uptake, are amassing it’s forces and proof – not to mention those all important daggers – have been unearthed from their tomb and have been sent to Richard Thorne who ends up being the second father figure who realises he’s going to have to take matters into his own hands.
As I alluded earlier, compared to it’s predecessor, Damien’s second outing is as empty and one dimensional as a blank envelope. There is literally nothing going on except some rudimentary business stuff going on behind the scenes and William Holden’s uncle being spectacularly slow on the uptake who’s go to explanation to all the weirdness swirling around his family is to simply proclaim everyone who mentions Damien’s real parentage as either senile or insane and sticks his head in the sand so much, you honestly suspect his mother was a fucking ostrich the same way his nephew’s was a canine scavenger.
Thus it’s predictably down to two things to save this second outing of a smug kid who counts the devil as his baby daddy – and the first is the return of Jerry Goldsmith. Going the John William’s/Jaws 2 route of providing a completely new yet incredibly similar score that not only continues the butt Pickering ominous nature of the first one, but manages to up the tempo to match the unsubtle, breakneck speed of the sequel’s ramped up pace.
The second thing that keeps you watching is, shockingly, the signature deaths which are still as overblown as ever while still being genuinely unnerving. While a bunch are admittedly a wee bit tame (heart attack after getting the stink eye from a raven, drawn out aneurysm that makes it’s victim hideously overact), but when the devil fancies stretching his cloven legs and getting down to some real work he busts out some truly memorable assassinations that are genuinely impressive while also being hilariously unsubtle. Take the gruesomely drawn out demise of a woman who’s attacked by an eye packing raven who renders her bloodied and blind as fuck so she staggers into the path of a semi-truck that rag dolls her all over the otherwise deserted road, or the needlessly involved death of a guy in an elevator whom fate has decided that simply dropping him down the lift shaft simply isn’t enough and instead slices the fucker in twain with a falling cable which bisects the whole freakin’ car. You gotta give the devil his due, he can put on a damn good show when pushed…
However, the rapid fire death rate comes with a cost and the fact that some of these victims are usually introduced barely a scene before they’re due to snuff it means you don’t really give a shit about them much at all.
It also doesn’t help that all of the characters caught in Damien’s orbit, including Holden’s ineffectual lead, are horribly under written with only Jonathan Scott-Taylor’s suitably smug title character having anything to chew on.
Despite all this, time has actually given the movie an accidentally modern theme as Damien: Omen II is – either by intention or by accident – an amusingly blunt statement on white privilege and how class and birthright can steamroll over everyone and everything in it’s path in order to manipulate the whole world into bowing to their whims regardless of the blatant disinterest of morality. Journalists, scientists, trusted family friends and decent people are swept off the board just because they are telling the truth about bad people doing bad things – it’s a horribly familiar tale and sadly one that seems to have long since leapt off the movie screen and onto the daily news which proves that shitty rich people don’t need the devil to do whatever they want.
Containing only mere shadow of the unsettling creeps it’s predecessor unleashed on an unsuspecting public, Damien: Omen II still manages to hold the attention mostly thanks to it’s relentless catalogue of gruesome misadventures that’ll make you suspicious of everything from ravens to elevators to getting squished by a runaway train carriage – although to be fair, you should be intimidated by that last one regardless.