Our survey of evangelical exploitation cinema continues with the non-sequel sequel to the film responsible for the mainstream emergence of a unique B-genre. The Omega Code was buoyed to surprising box office success by a massive mobilization of largely Christian moviegoers through various religious groups, but largely via exuberant trumpeting on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (helmed by the film's executive producer). It's just the sort of incestuous marketing perfected in the secular world. What makes the flick's performance particularly noteworthy, is that it proved there was potential profitability in faith-based filmmaking. Even if a picture STINKS! Numbero Uno was more baffling than evangelical with its reliance on the pseudo-religious hokum of the "Bible Code" as its maddening plot device. But its sequel takes Omega Code's best asset -- Michael York -- and fires a more by-the-Book shot at chronicling the Anti-Christ's rise as foretold in the Bible's book of Revelation. Certainly not new territory for the genre, yet Megiddo: Omega Code 2 (2001, 106 minutes) easily bests its namesake and high-profile belly-flopper Left Behind.
The movie: More remake than sequel, Mr. York returns in this Omen-esque take two on Stone Alexander's murderous assent to Grand Pooh-Bah of the world. Even as a youngster, Stone ain't right. First he tries to immolate his brother David with a box of matches and a devilish grin. Then after he's carted off to military school, lil Stone lets Udo Kier, flanked by a pair of demonic hell hounds, drip blood onto his forehead forming an inverted crucifix. It's enough to suggest the kid just might be E-V-I-L! Soon he's grow'd up and York starts chewing up scenery as only he can. Udo is his Satanic sidekick. Stone's empire feeds the world's hungry. Ends its wars. Cures the common cold. You name it. But Stone's family knows he's bad news. Unfortunately, Papa Alexander's suspicions are confirmed shortly before he tumbles off a balcony to his death . David Alexander (Michael Biehn) is our alleged hero, determined to outwit the Anti-Christ, er, his elder brother and save the world. Trouble is folks really LIKE this Stone fella and when a few contrarians eventually DO start to fuss, he hauls off and gets Biblical on EVERYONE -- zaps their hineys with lightening bolts and clobbers world landmarks with fire and brimstone. Touchy. There's not much here that's overly preachy per say, except for just before the final battle royal when David puts a shout out to the Almighty for assistance. No scenes of Christians getting their heads lopped off. No "mark of the beast" lore. But there is some footage of a full-scale mobilization of the Mexican military complex. Pretty supernatural right there. CineSchlockers will undoubtedly miss the second best dude in Part One -- Michael Ironside, but as right-hands of Satan go, it's tough to go astray with Mr. Kier. Clearly the flick also benefits from the sure direction of B-regular Brian Trenchard-Smith who helmed Night of the Demons 2 and TWO Leprechaun flicks, including the one where everyone's favorite pint-sized terror achieves orbit.
Notables: No breasts. 85 corpses, plus about 80 zillion at the battle of Armageddon. Attempted infanticide. Blossoming romance montage. CGI shenanigans. Insect puking. Involuntary freefall. Satanic rites. Amazing-shrinking Anti-Christ. Gratuitous paintball match in 1976.
Quotables: Young Damien, er, Stone Alexander just before trying to turn his baby bubba into an extra-crispy Pop Tart, "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away." He's still spunky in his teen years, "I'm going to do things you've never DREAMED of! I'm going to change the WORLD!!!" And in his old age, Stone is snidely optimistic, "I'll always have a chance in hell," and at other times, downright grouchy, "GO TO HELL!!!" CineSchlocker fave R. Lee Ermey as crusty President Richard Benson, "Now that we've blown the appropriate amount of smoke up each other's hind quarters. Do you mind if we get down to business?"
Time codes: Stone is a naughty, naughty boy (4:55). Perhaps the COOLEST demons ever seen in film (8:45). President's little, black heart attack (40:28). The world-wide unpleasantness of the "tribulation" begins (49:28). Buy a $15 cheeseburger (1:03:06). Mr. Biehn in a scene not unlike that of Christ in the garden of Gethsemani (1:19:55).
Audio/Video: Presented in its original widescreen (1.85:1) format. The early scenes particularly benefit from the near-pristine transfer and are beautifully photographed with low angles and graphic lighting that defy the flick's B-movie pedigree. Explosion-friendly battle scenes make especially good use of the Dolby Digital 5.1 track. A 2.0 track is also included.
Extras: Like other more mainstream titles, viewers are unable to skip commercial programing before the flick begins. In this case, it's a spot for computer software called "Where He Walked" chronicling the travels of Jesus. Three short video clips are billed among the "special" features. Silk-shirted TBN tycoon Dr. Paul Crouch tells viewers, "For almost 30 years, I've longed to take the great prophetic words of the Bible and bring them to life on the silver screen!" While revered "End Times" enthusiast Hal Lindsey also provides his endorsement as the flick highlights his belief that "the return of Jesus Christ to this planet is very, very soon" and "the Anti-Christ is somewhere alive and well on this Earth right now." The more traditional extra of the three is a four-minute look at the visual effects created by Rob Bredow's team of CGI and practical artists. Theatrical trailer. Animated menus with audio.
Final thought: Impressive FX, straight-forward theology and another gloriously over-the-top performance by the legendary Michael York propel this sequel well beyond its problematic predecessor. 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.