DAMIEN: OMEN II (1978)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 47 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

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Directed by: Don Taylor

Written by: Harvey Bernhard, Stanley Mann & Mike Hodges

Starring: Jonathan Scott-Taylor, William Holden, Lee Grant, Lucas Donat, Robert Foxworth, Lew Ayres Sylvia Sydney & Lance Henriksen

THE OMEN is probably the second-best Devil based horror movie next to THE EXORCIST. Whereas the EXORCIST closed itself off (rendering any further sequels to stretch the plot in order to exist), THE OMEN was begging for a sequel with its final shot. It ended on a bleak and satisfying note, but there was more than enough room for a sequel with little complaint. Audiences must have been interested in seeing the story of the Antichrist continued because, this movie was a pretty big success for its time. DAMIEN: OMEN II could have easily wound up as a supernatural slasher flick, but there’s a level of class that keeps it above just another body-count movie.

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Seven years have passed since the events of first film and Damien Thorn is almost thirteen years old. Living with his aunt and uncle, Damien attends a military academy with his cousin Mark. Despite the horrible deaths surrounding him and the baggage of his father trying to kill him in the last film, Damien has grown into a rather well-adjusted (and privileged) young man. Upon meeting his new drill instructor (played by far younger Lance Henriksen), Damien becomes aware of just who he is: the Antichrist. As Damien comes to grips with his powers and the revelation that he’s the son of Satan, tensions between him and his naïve cousin rise. Meanwhile, Richard Thorn (Damien’s uncle) goes through the same process of discoveries that Gregory Peck went through in the first film, all while the bodies pile up.

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For those looking for a gorefest or balls-to-the-wall supernatural flick loaded with jump scares, DAMIEN is not recommended. This sequel has the same sense of classic slow-building tension that helped make the first OMEN so special. Time is devoted to developing Damien as a fully fleshed-out character as opposed to just the creepy silent kid he was. Not every second is spent on his journey as we also watch Richard and sympathize with why he might be even more hesitant than his brother (Gregory Peck’s character) to believe that Damien really is the spawn of the Devil. Even though the latter material may be familiar (crazy deaths and the re-discovery of Damien’s true identity), DAMIEN isn’t just a retread of the first OMEN. It feels like another chapter in this trilogy surrounding a truly complicated horror villain.

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Now that all the praise for the deliberate pace and character development is out-of-the-way, I can get down the bloody details of the deaths. The death scenes this time around are marginally better than the first film. The original is an absolute classic, but DAMIEN has it beat in the body count department. A couple of the “kills” (if you can even call them that) are tame. One moment where the shocker was a heart attack had me out loud saying “Really? That’s all this person gets?” However, there are great moments that will make you uncomfortable in the same way the best FINAL DESTINATION demises do. An elevator scene is without a doubt my favorite moment. It freaked me out as a preteen watching this on AMC’s Fear Friday and it still disturbs me today. It’s an awesome scene! A raven (as opposed a Rottweiler) serves as a harbinger of death this time around. He’s not apparent in every kill, but he’s there for all the one’s set outdoors. Every time the pesky bird pops up with music accompanying him, you know that something is about to go down. Seeing as there’s a third film widely known and available, it’s not a spoiler to say that Damien lives. The ending is dark and not necessarily fresh compared to the first film’s conclusion, but it is very well-done.

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DAMIEN may never reach the level of its predecessor, but it’s a damned good horror sequel (pun fully intended). This is how a continuation to a horror classic should be done. Richard’s story may be overly familiar, but Damien’s self-discovery and embracing his demonic potential are stellar. There are far more deaths this time around (though they’re not the main focus of the movie) that range from decent to gnarly (e.g. that elevator scene, a moment on a deserted highway, a family function gone horribly wrong, etc.). They mostly fall on the gnarly side of things. It’s not completely original, but DAMIEN has enough of the old and new combined to make a solid second installment in this trilogy focusing on the Antichrist as a boy, a teenager, and an adult. If you remotely liked the first film, then definitely give DAMIEN a shot!

Grade: B+

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