In this episode of The Twilight Zone, Robert Sterling plays the editor of a failing newspaper. After being forced to fire all of his employees, Sterling prepares to commit suicide. However, before going through with it, Sterling is approached by a friendly old man (Burgess Meredith) who offers to both pay off Sterling’s debts and to work for him as the newspaper’s only reporter. Sterling agrees and…
Well, just the fact that this episode is entitled Printer’s Devil probably gives you a clue about what’s really going on with that nice old man…
There’s really only one reason to see the 2006 remake of The Omen and that’s the fact that the priest who convinces Ambassador Thorn to adopt the Antichrist is played by the great Giovanni Lombardo Radice.
If you’re a fan of Italian horror, you’ll immediately know who Radice is and, whenever he appears in The Omen, you’ll be momentarily excited. After all, Radice is an actor who has given memorable performances in films made by iconic directors like Lucio Fulci, Ruggero Deodato, Antonio Margheriti, Michele Soavi, and Martin Scorsese. He’s appeared in everything from City of the Living Dead to Cannibal Apocalypse to The House On The Edge of the Park toStagefright to Gangs of New York. As both a horror icon and an excellent actor who has always been gracious and friendly to his fans, Giovanni Lombardo Radice is one of those actors who movie bloggers like me are always happy to see in any film.
(And, if anyone deserves a role in a Quentin Tarantino film, it’s Giovanni Lombardo Radice.)
And Radice gives a really great performance in The Omen. He plays the role with just the right combination of menace and regret. When he first appears, you can tell that he’s determined to get Robert Thorn to adopt Damien but that he’s not particularly happy about having to do it. He may be one of the bad guys but he’s a bad guy with a conscience. Later, when Radice makes a second appearance, it momentarily re-energizes the film. He’s just got such a unique screen presence that, whenever he’s on-screen, Radice reminds you of the film that you want The Omen to be.
As for the rest of the remake — well, it’s all kind of pointless. The film is largely a scene-by-scene remake of the first Omen and, unfortunately, it never quite answers the question of why the film needed to be remade in the first place. The Gregory Peck role is played by Liev Schrieber while his wife is played by Julia Stiles. The doomed photographer is played by David Thewlis. Mia Farrow shows up in the role of the sinister nanny and Mia actually does a pretty good job but whenever she was delivering her lines, it was impossible for me not to imagine a remake of The Final Conflict where Ronan Farrow plays Damien.
Otherwise, the same characters die as in the original film and, often times, they die in the exact same way. It’s really almost lazy how little the remake changes from the original. And, ultimately, it makes the entire movie feel more than a little pointless. You’re left with the feeling that the only reason the Omen was remade was so that it could be released on June 6th, 2006 (a.k.a. 6-6-06).
So, when it comes to The Omen, stick with the original but watch the remake for Giovanni Lombardo Radice.
That was the question that I asked myself many times last night as I watched Omen IV: The Awakening.
Seriously, it is just the WORST* and, if not for my own need to be a completist, I probably would have stopped watching after the first ten minutes. But you know what? I love movies, I love this site, and even more importantly — I LOVE YOU! And I would do anything for you so I watched Omen IV: The Awakening so you wouldn’t have to.
Of course, when would you ever have to? I probably should have considered that before I sat down to watch the film.
ANYWAY — let’s keep this quick. The Omen IV: The Awakening was made for television and was originally broadcast way back in 1991. It tells the story of Virginia Congressman Gene York (Michael Woods) and his wife, Karen (Faye Grant, who is currently in the news because of a tape that’s surfaced of her ex-husband Stephen Collins confessing to being a child molester). Gene and Karen cannot have children so they adopt a baby from a bunch of nuns. What they don’t suspect is that some of the nuns are actually in league with Satan and that their new daughter is actually the child of Damien Thorn!
Seven years later, they’ve named their daughter Delia and Delia has grown up to be something of a sociopath. A bunch of new age hippie types suspect the truth about Delia but, whenever they get close to revealing that truth, they end up getting killed in freak accidents. Meanwhile, Gene insists nothing is wrong while Karen…
Oh, forget it. This movie is so bad that it’s painful to even try to describe the plot.
Let’s just say that this is an amazingly bad movie that has none of the power of the first Omen. Nor is it as unintentionally fun as Damien: Omen II. And none of the actors do as good as job as Sam Neill did in The Final Conflict. Instead, it’s just a rather dull film where the tedium is only occasionally interrupted by somebody dying a terrible death. There are two effective sequences — one in which a private detective (Michael Lerner) is chased by demonic spirits and another where a snake handler gets distracted just long enough to get bitten a few thousand times. Otherwise, Omen IV: The Awakening deserves its terrible reputation.
AVOID IT AT ALL COSTS!
(Which probably won’t be hard since I imagine that the only way you could be tricked into watching it would be if you’re one of those film bloggers who insists on being a completist…)
* Yes, it’s so bad that it gets the all caps treatment.
Originally, it had been planned that the Omen franchise would be made up of six or seven films and that each movie would check in on another year in the life of Damien Thorn, a bit like an apocalyptic version of Boyhood. However, after Damien: Omen II failed to perform up to expectations, plans were changed.
Instead of continuing the story of Damien’s adolescence, the 1981 film Omen III: The Final Conflict jumps straight into Damien’s adulthood. Now 32 years old and played by a very young (and handsome) Sam Neill, Damien Thorn is now the CEO of Thorn Enterprises. With the help of his loyal assistant Harvey Dean (Don Gordon), Damien has become one of the most popular and powerful men on the planet. Thorn Enterprises, having followed Paul Buhler’s scheme from the second film, is now responsible for feeding a good deal of the world. Damien is seen as being a humanitarian and a future President. When the U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom reacts to spotting a black dog in the park by committing suicide, Damien is appointed to the position.
(Needless to say, everyone in London is happy to see Damien. Nobody says, “I just hope you don’t end up going crazy and dying a violent death, like everyone else in your family and immediate circle of acquaintances.” But they’re probably thinking it…)
Now in London (and also appointed to be head of the United Nations Youth Organization, which just goes to show that your crazy uncle is right and the United Nations is a conspiracy), Damien pursues a rather creepy romance with journalist Kate Reynolds (Lisa Harrow) and makes plans to prevent the Second Coming by killing every single baby born on the morning of March 24th. (But Harvey’s son was born on March 24th — wow, could this lead to some sort of conflict?)
Meanwhile, a group of priests (led by an embarrassed-looking Rossanno Brazzi) have recovered these damn daggers of Megiddo and are now all attempting to assassinate Damien. Unfortunately, none of them are very good at their job. (“You had one job, Father! One job!”)
The Final Conflict is not that good. It’s boring. The plot is full of holes. For instance — and yes, these are SPOILERS — why have we sat through two movies listening to characters insist that Damien has to be stabbed by all seven of the daggers when apparently, just one dagger will do the job? Why, after being told that Jesus is going to be reborn as a child, does he then appear as an adult at the end of the film? And finally, why does nobody ever seem to find it strange that everyone that Damien knows end up suffering a freak accident?
I will say that there are two good things about The Final Conflict.
First off, Sam Neill gives a good performance as Damien Thorn. He’s handsome, he’s charismatic, and he’s not afraid to be evil. But, unfortunately, Damien’s just not that interesting of a character anymore. In the first Omen, he was interesting because he was an evil five year old. In the second Omen, he was at least occasionally conflicted about his role. In the third Omen, Damien is just evil and evil without nuance is boring.
Secondly, there’s that sequence where Damien’s followers go after the babies born on March 24th. Oh my God, that was so disturbing and it was one of the few moments when The Final Conflict actually became horrific.
Otherwise, The Final Conflict is a thoroughly forgettable sequel to a memorable film.
The first sequel to The Omen was 1978’s Damien: Omen II. Damien: Omen II is an odd film, one that is not very good but yet remains very watchable.
Damien: Omen II takes place 7 years after the end of the original Omen. Antichrist Damien Thorn (now played by Jonathan Scott-Taylor) is now 12 years old. He lives with his uncle Richard (William Holden) and Richard’s 2nd wife, Ann (Lee Grant). His best friend is his cousin Mark (Lucas Donat). In fact, the only problem that Damien has is that his great-aunt Marion (Sylvia Sidney) can’t stand him and views him as a bad influence. Fortunately, as usually seems to happen whenever someone puts an obstacle in Damien’s life, there’s always either a black dog or a black crow around to help out.
Damien and Mark are cadets at a local military academy where Damien deals with a bully by glaring at him until he falls to the ground, grabbing at his head. In history class, Damien shocks his teacher by revealing that he knows the date of every battle ever fought. Damien’s new commander, Sgt. Neff (Lance Henriksen), pulls Damien to the side and tells him to stop showing off and to quietly bide his time.
Meanwhile, Richard is busy running Thorn Industries. One of his executives, Paul Buhler (Robert Foxworth), wants to expand Thorn’s operations into agriculture but his plans are opposed by Richard’s executive vice president, Bill Atherton (Lew Ayres), who considers Paul to be unethical. However, during an ice hockey game, Bill falls through the ice and, despite the efforts of everyone to break through the ice and save him, ends up floating away. Paul is promoted and pursues his plans to make money off of world famine. In between all of this, Paul finds the time to speak to Damien and tell him that he has a great future ahead of him.
Along with Thorn Industries, Richard also owns the Thorn Museum in Chicago. The museum’s curator is Dr. Charles Warren (Nicholas Pryor) who was a friend of the archeologist Karl Bugenhagen (Leo McKern) who, in the first film, revealed that not only was Damien the antichrist but that the only way to kill him was by stabbing him with the Seven Daggers of Meggido. Dr. Warren is also friends with Joan Hart (Elizabeth Shepherd), a reporter who both knows the truth behind Bugenhagen’s death and who has also seen an ancient cave painting that reveals that the Antichrist looks exactly like a 12 year-old Damien Thorn.
Much as in the first film, just about everyone who comes into contact with Damien ends up getting killed in some odd and grotesque way. Crows peck out eyes. Trucks run over heads. One unfortunate victim is crushed between two trains. Another is chopped in half by an elevator cable. At times, Damien: Omen II feels less like a sequel to The Omen and more like a forerunner to Final Destination.
Damien: Omen II is one of those films that I like despite myself. It’s bad but it’s bad in a way that only a film from the 1970s could be and, as such, it has some definite historical value. The script is full of red herrings, the acting is inconsistent, and the film can never seem to make up its mind whether Damien is pure evil or if he’s conflicted about his role as Antichrist. As I watched the film, I wondered why the devil could so easily kill some people but not others.
And yet, Damien: Omen II is so ludicrous and silly that it’s undeniably watchable. If the first film was distinguished by Gregory Peck’s defiant underplaying, the second film is distinguished by the way that William Holden delivers every line through manfully clenched teeth. Everyone else in the cast follows Holden’s lead and everyone goes so far over-the-top that even the most mundane of scenes become oddly fascinating.
For me, the film is defined by poor Lew Ayres floating underneath that sheet of ice while everyone else tries to rescue him. On the one hand, it’s absolutely horrific to watch. I’m terrified of drowning and, whenever the camera focused on Ayres desperately pounding on the ice above him, I could barely bring myself to look at the screen. But, at the same time, we also had William Holden screaming, “OH GOD!” and Nicholas Pryror enthusiastically chopping at the ice with a big axe and dozens of extras awkwardly skating across the ice. Somehow, the scene ended up being both horrifying and humorous. It should not have worked but somehow, it did.
And that’s pretty much the perfect description of Damien: Omen II. It shouldn’t work but, in its own way, it does.
A few days ago, Arleigh shared the theme song from 1976’s The Omen as Monday’s horror song of the day. As I sat there and listened to Jerry Goldsmith’s award-winning hymn to Satan, it occurred to me that I happen to have all five of the Omen films sitting in my movie collection. Seeing as how this is Halloween and how the world seems to be getting closer to ending with each passing day, I decided that this would be the perfect time to rewatch the entire franchise and consider whether or not The Omen films are truly as scary as a lot of people seem to think.
So, that’s what I did.
How did things turn out?
Well, in the long history of sequels and remakes, The Omen franchise is one of the more uneven collections. This is one of those franchises where things tend to get less impressive with each subsequent entry. However, 38 years after its initial release, the first Omen remains effective and, in its way, genuinely scary.
If you’re a horror fan, you probably know the general plot of The Omen regardless of whether you’ve actually watched it or not. It’s one of those films that has been so frequently imitated that it’s almost possible to watch it by osmosis.
The film opens in Rome with diplomat Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) being rushed to the hospital where his wife, Kathy (Lee Remick), has just given birth. A priest (Martin Benson) tells him that his son died shortly after being born but that he can always just go home with an orphaned newborn that he just happens to have handy. Robert agrees and decides not to tell his wife the truth about the child. Robert and Kathy raise the boy and they name him Damien. Four years later, the politically ambitious Robert is named as Ambassador to the Court of St. James.
The Thorns move to London and soon, odd things start to happen. Damien (now played by Harvey Spencer Stephens) is a quiet boy with a piercing stare who throws a fit whenever he’s taken inside of a church. When Kathy takes Damien to the zoo, they’re attacked by angry baboons. A large Rottweiler mysteriously appears on the grounds of the Ambassador’s estate. A mysterious and sinister nanny (Billie Whitelaw) shows up and explains that she’s been sent by an “agency.” A crazed priest (Patrick Troughton) starts to stalk the Ambassador, demanding a chance to speak with him and insisting that Damien’s mother was actually a jackal.
Even more mysteriously, people start dying in the strangest of ways. A young woman (Holly Palance) smiles as she shouts, “Damien, it’s all for you!” and then hangs herself, thoroughly ruining Damien’s fifth birthday party. A freak lightning storm leads to a man being impaled by a weather vane. Another person who suspects that there might be something wrong with Damien ends up losing his head in a graphic sequence that — even in this age of Hostel and Saw — is difficult to watch.
The Ambassador is contact by Keith Jennings (David Warner), a nervous photographer who fears that Damien may be planning on killing him. Soon, Thorn and Jennings are flying to Italy and to the Middle East and discovering evidence that five year-old Damien might very well be the Antichrist. Speaking of Damien, he and that nanny have been left alone with poor, victimized Kathy.
(“Oh, leave her alone,” I muttered as Damien attempted to kill Kathy for the hundredth time…)
As I watched The Omen, I tried to figure out why this film has held up so well. It certainly wasn’t due to the performance of Gregory Peck who, quite frankly, seemed to mostly be going through the motions. David Warner, on the other hand, gave such a good performance that it was almost difficult to watch. (Don’t get attached to any character who appears in an Omen film.) Some of the film’s effectiveness was undoubtedly due to Jerry Goldsmith’s intense score. Anything’s scary when you’ve got a hundred voice shouting “Ave Satani” at you.
But, ultimately, I think the reason why The Omen still works is because the film generates such a palpable sense of doom. This is one of those films that leaves you convinced that anyone can die at any minute and, considering that happens to be true in both this movie and in real life, that makes the horror of The Omen feel very real. By the time the film ends, you’re left with little doubt that nobody in the film had the least bit of power or control over his or her own destiny. Instead, they were all just pawns in a game that they had no hope of ever winning or understanding. Is there anything scarier than feeling powerless?
All I know is that, having rewatched The Omen, I will never look at a plane of glass the same way again.
So here we are, 24 days into October, and I have yet to share an old Vincent Price film! It’s not October without at least a little contribution from Vincent. Well, allow me to correct that with today’s horror on the lens, the 1964 Roger Corman film The Masque of the Red Death.
Based on the classic story by Edgar Allan Poe, this film features Vincent Price giving one of his best performances as the doomed and decadent Satanist Prince Prospero. The film’s cinematographer was future director Nicolas Roeg and The Masque of the Red Death is probably one of the most visually impressive of all of Corman’s films.