Retroactively renamed Omen III – The Final Conflict in order to bring some continuity to the franchise’s titles (this was, of course, long before the chaotic maelstrom that is the Fast And Furious saga), The Final Conflict arrived in 1981 to bring a close to the odessey of Damien Thorn, the smirking little tyke who’s family tree stinks of sulphur at the roots.
After the first movie told the butt puckering tale of an American ambassador adopting a baby only for it to be a massive conspiracy for him to raise the anti-christ and the second continued Damien continuing rise to power in his teens as a rash of bizarre accidents clears the board for his ascension; the third reintroduces satan’s spawn as a thirty two year old industrialist who has taken his namesake’s company to greater heights and stands poised to enter the world of american politics. Could this “final” movie (not counting the TV movie and a remake that would eventually follow) end the trilogy with a biblical bang?
While news reports clamour about droughts and global recession while political tensions rise in Israel, young industrialist Damien Thorn is overseeing a time of prosperity with his seemingly benevolent company. This, of course, is due to the supernatural influence he possesses thanks to being able to proudly call the devil his daddy as Damien also happens to be the full fledged anti-christ who has used his vast business contacts and a handy dose of telepathic suggestion to put himself exactly where he needs to be to continue his dark work.
Where he need to be, apparently, is England due to a prophecy that states that Christ is due to reborn there which causes a massive dent in Damien’s plans to make everything as shitty as possible. Taking his adopted father’s old position as ambassador after the current guy suddenly blows his brains out, Thorn starts taking steps to protect his legacy by ordering his acolytes to start culling every single male child born on a certain date in the time it takes to say “wow, just like in the bible!”.
Meanwhile, an order of monks have gotten hold of the Seven Daggers Of Megiddo – holy implements thought lost at the end of the last movie – and plan to make their move on the unholy fucker with the aim of stabbing more holes in him than the plastic film of a microwave meal – on top of that, Damien has started a romantic relationship with journalist Kate Reynolds and creepily starts molding her son into his own image.
With all these fateful elements moving against each other, Damien’s grip on his legacy starts to loosen, but can he emerge triumphant when even his own subordinates start to falter?
The final part of the original trilogy (we’ll conveniently forget Omen IV: The Awakening exists for the moment), The Final Conflict adds some much needed closure on one of cinema’s most famous bouts of satanic panic, and yet for some reason the concept of a fully grown Damien who has fully embraced his unholy destiny never truly lands as well as you’d hoped it would. It’s not for the want of trying as the plot goes all out on religious details, cramming in the second coming of Christ, mass infanticide and a go for broke suicide mission to make the anti-christ eat some biblical tasting humble pie into a single film in order to bring things to a satisfying close – but despite all this, not to mention the return of Richard Donner as an executive producer, The Final Conflict ends up feeling oddly small and inconsequential regardless of the weighty themes in play.
The first thing you notice is that the spectacular accidents that befall anyone caught snooping in the devil’s affairs just aren’t as bombastic as they once were and despite an early suicide that’s memorably macabre in it’s details (the bullet catches him just under the freaking nose and sprays his brains up the wall like a popped melon), the creative body count in this movie feel, well, a little ordinary. There’s certainly nothing here to match David Warner’s twirling head from the original or the luckless doctor who gets an elevator cable assisted leg-ectomy from the sequel and maybe the devil’s mellowing on his old age but the noticable reduction in over-complicated brutality reduces the threat somewhat.
Also weirdly reducing the threat is how the film treats Damien himself. Not that any fault can be levelled at future T-Rex avoider Sam Neill who does an amazing job with some admittedly on the nose dialogue, but I’ve always personally found the concept of the first Omen far more terrifying. There’s just something about a child who has no idea of his infernal lineage growing up all innocent and chubby cheeked while a malevolent invisible hand is obliterating anyone in his path while he grows up in a rich, influential family like a hell spawned parasite that sits deep in the gut like an ice cold stool. In comparison, a mature Damien who has full knowledge of his heritage and is in full control of his life is just another evil, white rich dude and maybe in 1981 it was more alarming, but nowadays we’re fucking drowning in the bastards and none of them have a reason so quaint as satan’s blood flowing through their veins.
Taking all that into account, Neill holds the whole thing together with his considerable charm even when endlessly hate-monologuing to an effigy of Jesus while loudly referring to the flaccid bosom of Christ. Plus, just because the gore quota is noticably lower, it doesn’t mean The Final Conflict doesn’t know how to play rough when it needs to and goes to some surprisingly dark places. Take all the innocent babies that are successfully killed which raises the country’s infant mortality rate by a staggering 20% in a matter of days; or the fact that his sexual proclivities involve him sodomising Kate against her will during lovemaking – a devastating red flag even if the guy wasn’t the son of the devil.
However, the movie is ultimately let down by a lacklustre finale, as the long overdue vanquishing of the anti-christ only proves to be anti-climactic with the battle between good and evil being decided with a clumsy skirmish in an abandoned church which sees the normally down to earth series (relatively speaking) resort to glowy visions of the almighty himself as Damien succumbs to a stab wound that looks like it wouldn’t stop a hemophiliac.
Despite a great central performance that holds a steady rudder under some choppy seas and some surprisingly harsh plot decisions, The Omen’s last gasp just good enough to bring the whole satanic story full circle, even Jerry Goldman’s score portends a fairly subdued finale even though it contains all the requisite wailing voices. However, you can’t help but feel that things have been a little beelze-flubbed…