Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ominus! Latinus! Chanting! Soundtrackius!

Religion and horror tangle a lot, but sadly the two don't really work together very well most of the time. They tend to either prey on the audience's spiritual fears (which only works on those that are above a certain level of spirituality), or they give us a really hammy Satan. I'm looking at you, Al Pacino. SHOUTING AWKWARDLY AND FLARING YOUR EYELIDS IS NOT ACTING. IT'S LIKE IF I WROTE THIS ARTICLE IN ALL CAPS AND CONSIDERED IT BRILLIANT WRITING.
Still, even in an oft-crappy subgenre, there are a few gems. The Omen is easily the most notable, in this case.

You all know the basics, I'm sure. The American Ambassador to the UK secretly adopts a baby after his wife's child dies shortly after birth, they name the kid Damien, raise it, but things take a sinister tone as Damien gets older, as it's revealed to them that their son is the anti-christ.
This is honestly, easily, in my top ten horror films of all time. The ominous latin chanting soundtrack is amazing, the cast is magnificent (Gregory Peck's easily one of my favorite actors from the time), the story is unique, and the overall atmosphere is fantastic. This film manages to be genuinely scary without having much gore at all (one decapitation, only one), and without resorting to cheap tactics like "boo!" scares.
If you've somehow never seen this horror classic, rectify this immediately. You at least know this film through the constant parodies, homages, and references it spawns, especially the soundtrack, maybe even the line "It's all for you, Damien!"

Sadly, for some reason, most people I know have never seen an Omen sequel. Hell, most don't even know it -has- sequels, it's in the same family as Psycho.
Damien: The Omen II follows Damien a few years later, now a young teen at a military academy with his cousin, being raised by his aunt and uncle after the events of the first film. In the first film we never really knew if Damien was aware of his true nature, but the frist sequel puts its emphasis on the fact that know, he doesn't.
I find this makes the film very intriguing to watch, I mean... yes, we are technically watching the son of Satan, but he's got an innocence to him, and his handling of the revelation was handled pretty well.
This film is a -bit- bloodier than its predecessor, and I'll confess it's less scary, but it's still a fun and thought provoking film, and it's nice to have that in a horror sequel. The acting is still good in this film, although the only major recognizable face is Lance Henriksen in an early role.
I've also got to gripe a bit about the ending. There's a last minute revelation that just feels really, really half-assed. It's not foreshadowed at all, it just seems random. Still, I'd say that by horror movie sequel standards, this is above average. Not as good as the original, but still really good on its own.

The trilogy of sorts is ended by The Omen 3: The Final Conflict, starring Sam Neil. I believe this is the third time I've referenced him in this blog, good for you Sam.
Sam Neill plays an adult Damien Thorne, now fully accepting the fact that he is the son of Satan, and taking a big role in politics.
This film is.. hrm. It's certainly scarier and gorier than the second film, but mood wise it does feel radically different than the previous movies. We follow Damien has he prepares for the second coming of Jesus as he gets a bunch of his personal followers to kill off all babies born on the day he believes Jesus Reborn was born, while also tracking down the people that possess the knives capable of killing him and murdering them in creative ways.
The film's quite disturbing, especially in its handling of the killing of hundreds of newborn children. The non-baby death scenes are also quite disturbing and creatively done, and Sam Neill... my god Sam Neill is -excellent- as a villain. The man needs to do it more. Seriously, this and Event Horizon prove that Sam Neill is an excellent actor when it comes to villainous roles. My god, his laugh alone is just perfect, the man seriously comes across as someone that could turn out to be a complete sociopath.
Sadly, the final act of this film is... kinda lame. There's a seemingly random villainous sex scene wherein Damien Thorne has anal sex with the film's heroine in order to give us a sequel hook (god that sentence was odd to type out), and then... Damien gets stabbed with one of the last daggers. He sees Jesus, now a glowing adult that looks a lot like Eric Clapton. Damien ends, bible quote happens, trilogy's over.
This film's pretty good on its own. It's a neat religious horror film with a lame ending, but that's still not bad. I guess it's not a bad trilogy ender, but it still feels really different than the previous two films in terms of tone, but I guess it could have been worse. Great acting, great effects, great writing up till the final act... it's worth a watch.

Sadly, the film series didn't end that way. Sure, it never got another major sequel, but it did get a shitty made-for-tv movie sequel.
The Omen 4 basically serves as sort of a shitty quasi-remake of the first film, only now it's a little girl instead of a little boy. Oh and she's not the anti-christ, but she's pregnant with him. ...seriously. You read that right.
This film is god -awful-. I think that's the first sacrilegious thing I've said in this article, huh. Still, wow is this movie bad. The acting is terrible, easily worse than anything I even saw in the Carnosaur trilogy. Everyone sounds border, confused, and disinterested, like the actors are captors of some sick director and I'm just missing out on their attempts to call for outside help.
The writing is utter crap. When it's not borrowing from other films in the trilogy, or other horror films in general, it just feels weak and confusing, and the revelation that the little girl has an evil fetus in her is handled so poorly that I actually found myself laughing the first time I saw this. Even the film quality is substandard, it has that weird fuzzy, poorly lit indoors overly lit outdoors kind of look that Lifetime Original movies tend to have.
I'd -easily- rank this as one of the worst horror film sequels I've ever seen. I mean it's not as bad as say, the last Hellraiser movie, but it's on the level with the last few Puppet Master films in terms of quality alone as a standalone movie. Once you compare it to how good the trilogy was before this thing came into existence, it just makes it even worse.
Amusingly, the director behind this also did the 5th Halloween movie, which... at least wasn't the worst Halloween movie (that'd be either 6 or 8, but we'll have that for another article after I'm done rewatching the films. Yes, I marathon -all- of these before reviewing them, just to make sure I don't get anything wrong, and to give every film at least a second viewing.)

On the bright side we never got a sequel. Instead, we get a partially shot-by-shot remake.
I already had my doubts over the quality of this film because it seemed to only be made because of its release date: 06-06-06. It felt like a gimmick remake. ...and I was right.
It's pretty faithful, beyond changing many of the death scenes into irritating Rube Goldberg device sequences that make Final Destination 3 look serious. Seriously, I found myself humming the Breakfast Machine music from the Pee-Wee Herman movie every time, it's that awful. They also added in a bunch of random boo! scares and some horrific imagery like some weird demon thing Damien's mother keeps seeing. It's like the creators knew that they couldn't duplicate the scares the original gave, so they threw these in instead. It also has a really, really dumb sequence thrown in that gives me End of Days flashbacks, with catholic cardinals or whatever discussing signs of the end of the world, including 9/11. It just felt like a lame way to try to get an emotional response from the audience, and just feels so out of place that it irritates me.
Altogether though, it's not a -bad- movie. It has entertainment value, but that's to be expected when you largely just repeat things from a genuinely good film. They would have honestly been better off pulling a Gus Van Sant and just making it a full on shot-by-shot remake as, save for one new thing, the new content in the film is just awful. That one good thing being the revised death of Damien's mother, which I prefer to the original's method.

Thankfully, there is absolutely no buzz surrounding any attempt to revive this franchise further.

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