Damien: Omen II

04/03/2020 06:31

Film: Omen II: Damien

Year: 1978

Director: Don Taylor

Writer: Stanley Mann and Mike Hodges

Starring: William Holden, Lee Grant and Jonathan Scott-Taylor



The first time that I saw this movie was probably in college. I know that I saw it soon after seeing the original. To be honest though, I didn’t remember a lot about it. I was intrigued to give this one a rewatch for sure. I’ve now followed that up with another viewing as part of the Summer Challenge Series for the Podcast Under the Stairs as a potential selection.

The synopsis: Damien (Jonathan Scott-Taylor) the Antichrist, now about to turn 13 years old, finally learns of his destiny under the guidance of an unholy disciple of Satan. Meanwhile dark forces begin to eliminate all those who suspect the child’s identity.

We start soon after the events of the first movie. Carl Bugenhagen (Leo McKern) reaches out to an archeologist Michael (Ian Hendry). Bugenhagen tries to convince him to reach out to Richard Thorn (William Holden) who is the brother to Robert. Richard and his wife Ann (Lee Grant) are taking in Damien as his legal guardian. Michael doesn’t believe what this older man is saying. He refuses to do as he’s asked. To sway him, Bugenhagen takes him to an ancient wall that depicts Damien as the Antichrist. There’s a crow that is watching over this and makes the temple collapse, trapping the two men.

The movie then shifts 7 years into the future. Damien is now Scott-Taylor. Along with his cousin, Mark (Lucas Donat) they go a military academy together. As they prepare to head back to school, their aunt Marion (Sylvia Sidney) expresses her displeasure directly to Damien. She likes Mark but doesn’t trust the other boy. She even states that she wants him sent away to not poison Mark. His adopted parents won’t hear any of it and a crow visits her that night.

At school they have a new commanding officer, Sergeant Neff (Lance Henriksen). He tells both Thorn boys that despite their heritage at the school, they won’t be given special treatment. He does take special interest in Damien.

At work, Richard is co-workers with Bill Atherton (Lew Ayres). They’re trying to figure out a new project for the company. Atherton isn’t too fond of what Paul Buher (Robert Foxworth) wants to do. It involves controlling the growth of food for profit and he’s told to shelve it for now. An accident happens and allows Paul more power with the company, like what has been happening to others.

Charles Warren (Nicholas Pryor) is especially close to Ann and runs the Thorn Museum. A reporter he knows, Joan Hart (Elizabeth Shepherd) wants to speak with Richard. It seems she believes that Damien is the Antichrist and that if they don’t act, it will spell the end of the world. He doesn’t believe it, but as strange things keep happening around the boy, he starts to question it himself.

That should do it with getting you up to speed with the story and introducing the key characters. Where I’ll start is stating my biggest worry with sequels is to not violate continuity which I think this one does a good job if I’m honest. It starts us close after the original one ended, before jumping us into the future with a new story. This worked for me. There isn’t more to tell with the child version of Damien. As a teen, it explores some interesting ideas that I’ll get into it shortly.

To get into the meat of this movie, I like that it is exploring Christianity and more in-depth to the Book of Revelations of the New Testament. Damien at the start has no idea and I like that. He’s just a normal kid that gives some people creepy vibes, but it feels natural. What is scary here though is that there are people that know who he is, on both sides. I don’t want to reveal them, but I think it is interesting how they fit into the four horsemen of the apocalypse where one of them uses the word Famine, one of the riders and another one is in the military so that could be considered War or I guess possibly Conquest. These are just cool aspects that are worked into the story with how I’m seeing it.

There are also parallels here with Jesus to Damien. While growing up, my mother was into the Left Behind series of novels. I never got into them, but the story fascinated me. Having a bit more life experience, I now know they go more into religious propaganda or at least the movie adaptations did. I’m guessing those borrowed from this series. Damien is faced in this movie as a similar struggle that Jesus did in missing books of the bible. When he learns of his destiny, he fights back against it at first. I also read the sequel novel to Rosemary’s Baby, Son of Rosemary. That is a similar character to Damien and they must decide to fulfill their birthright or go their own way. I love this idea of prophecy and freewill to decide. If you know where this series goes, it is easy to figure out the path that Damien takes.

This film also mirrors to the original as well. Richard and Robert do not believe what people are telling them. I think part of that is their standing in society, but it also is ludicrous. We as viewers see things that they don’t. That puts us in the know, but I like that they ground this with this. I do like this one being different that Ann doesn’t suspect him where his original mother did. Also giving Damien a bigger part and discovering a bit of himself as he’s coming into puberty adds a level here to set it apart as I said. It is also setting the stage for how the prophecy plays out as we learn just how powerful the Thorn family is.

There is something that struck me with my watches of this movie. Damien in the first one seemed to make things happen. This time around there is this crow that shows up before things happened. With this watch that clicked home for me. I can explain away Damien not realizing his birthright. It is times of anger or fear we see him having power. It is forces around him that are protecting which makes sense for me now. I do enjoy this part for sure.

If I did have any issues it would come with how the story plays out though. I thought the movie was lacking a bit of direction and loses steam. Not enough to ruin it, but I just couldn’t feel where it was going to take us. I think part of that is what happens to Joan and how long it takes for one of his parents change his mind on this boy. I will say that I never got bored and I like how it ends, but that’s just how it felt as it was playing out for me, even after a second watch with critical eyes.

Moving this to the acting, I thought that Holden was good. He plays a similar role to that of Gregory Peck and I think both help to ground their respective characters. It feels natural their change in what they believe and I liked it. Grant is a good counterpoint to him. She firmly believes that Damien is good and she loves Mark as well. I like that plus how her character stays the same while her husband changes. Originally, I had issues with Scott-Taylor’s performance, but with this rewatch that wasn’t there. He seems like a teen who doesn’t know himself and gets more confident as it goes on even. I thought it was fun to see a young Henriksen here as Neff, he did good. I also thought that Foxworth, Pryor, Ayres, Sidney, Shepherd and Allan Arbus help to round this out for what was needed. I also didn’t mind Donat. As teen actor he was fine. The acting was good across the board with no issues.

Something I did have slight issues with would be the effects. There was a dummy death that wasn’t great. I did like everything else in that sequence before it. There is charm to these though. The effects were done practical, which I prefer, but this one I thought took a step back as they tried to ramp it up a bit more. They just didn’t necessarily work for me. The cinematography though was good, I will give it that.

The last thing to cover would be the soundtrack. I’m glad they followed suit with their predecessor in sticking with the choir music that is singing in Latin. It makes it feel religious and quite eerie. I would listen to this soundtrack while I’m writing if I’m going to be honest as it does bring an uneasy feeling for. It also helps to drive the tension.

In conclusion, I was a bit nervous about seeing this movie, wondering how this would follow up a classic. I think this does a good job in continuing to build the story and the mythology. I like pushing it into the future so they could do more with Damien. Bringing him into puberty where he was just a child in the original adds a layer. I thought the acting from Scott-Taylor and the rest of the cast was good. The story doesn’t seem as focused, but not enough to ruin it. The soundtrack fit and helps to build the tension. The effects were hit or miss if I’m going to be honest, but I think it was shot well overall aside from that. There is something about supernatural things happening, but in the scheme of the movie, the characters do not that works for me. I think that helps to ground the movie. I would rate this as good and solid follow up. This could be watched by itself, which is the sign of a good sequel, but I recommend it with the original to get the full story.


My Rating: 8 out of 10