It was Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist that proved moviegoers were itching to have the wits scared out of them by Old Scratch hisself -- the original bogeyman who has pervaded our collective fear for all of time. And Hollywood didn't have to look any further than The Bible itself for truly horrific inspiration, as the pages of Revelation are chock full of garish descriptions of Earth's end times, about the rise of the Anti-Christ and all the really nasty stuff he's gonna do. So, what if the apocalyptic prophecies are true? What if Satan's child WILL rise to rule the world? And what if your rosy-cheeked, newborn son WERE the Anti-Christ? That's exactly what The Omen pondered and would laboriously explore through THREE sequels -- Damien: Omen II (1978, 107 minutes), Omen III: The Final Conflict and Omen IV: The Awakening. All are presented in a groovy new box set from Fox called The Omen Collection, with the fourth feature currently only available in the set.
The movie: When last we left little Damien, Gregory Peck was attempting to stab him to death with a holy Ginsu knife. Thankfully, the local police got involved and assured the world there'd be a sequel by saving the boy. He has been taken in by his uncle Richard Thorn (William Holden), and now, the Anti-Christ has hit puberty and all hell breaks loose, literally. The plot is dang near exactly the same -- one or two folks are convinced Damien is evil, but his uncle simply won't accept it. And like before, strange "accidents" occur to those who dare question the young man's lineage, and usually after they've been scared half to death by a squawking black crow. But this time, though, there's proof. Some archeologists dug up an ancient temple wall that's covered in an image of the Anti-Christ -- and he looks EXACTLY like Damien. Only no one bothered to photograph the thing, and it takes the whole movie to ship it to the Thorn-funded museum. With piles of bodies all around him, Uncle Richard, STILL has to see the wall for himself before he'll comprehend the truth and decide to finish the job his brother started. In the first movie, Damien was protected by Satan's henchmen, the same is true for this film, but now he's old enough now to discover, for himself, his true purpose and who his REAL father is. And the fella charged with that instruction is none other than B-favorite Lance Henriksen as Damien's military school mentor.
Notables: No breasts. 10 corpses. THE Beast. One cave-in. Gratuitous slide show. Devil crows. One road pizza. Elevator disaster. Runaway locomotive. Museum inferno.
Quotables: Could this be an ode to a certain sci-fi doctor?: "I'm an archeologist, not a religious fanatic!" Damien has trouble coping with the truth, "Why?! Why me?!" One of the worst school-yard put downs ever, "A jackal! You were born of a jackal!"
Time codes: Damien's all grow'd up (9:30). Hitchcock-inspired kill sequence (37:35). Trapped under the ice floe (47:00). Damien shows off his superior mind (51:45). One of the more brilliant elevator accidents depicted on film (1:11:10). The Thorn family has a REAL home theater (1:17:28). Damien channels Darth Vadar (1:28:05).
Audio/Video: Crisply presented in its original widescreen (2.35:1) format, with a new Dolby Digital Surround track. It's also been enhanced for widescreen TVs.
Extras: Commentary by producer Harvey Bernhard (Goonies, The Lost Boys) who remembers most everyone on the cast by saying, "What a great actor." But he still fumes over the first director's decision to have Elizabeth Shepherd wear a bright-red dress. It seems the subtly of each victim wearing red was definitely lost on him. Harvey's a bit crabby, but does well in relaying his unique insight on the film's production. Slick-looking animated menus featuring Satanic imagery and the Omen chant. Trailers for The Omen, Damien: The Omen II and Omen III: The Final Conflict, plus these additional Fox titles: Alien, Best Laid Plans, The Fly (1958), Return of the Fly, The Fly (1986), The Fly II, Ravenous and Titus.
Final thought: Best of the series. More visceral than artistic, as all the restraint of the first flick gets pancaked by a Mac truck. Outstanding "accidents" with moments of true horror. Highly Recommended.
G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.