Damien: Omen II (1978)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

GENERAL INFO:
Director:  Don Taylor
Studios:  Twentieth Century Fox
Starring:  Jonathan Scott-Taylor, William Holden, Lee Grant; ft. Lucas Donat, Sylvia Sidney, Lew Ayres, Lance Henriksen; introducing Meshach Taylor
Tagline:  The first time was only a warning.
MPAA Rating:  R
Genre:  horror, terror, thriller, suspense, devil, spawn of satan, religious occult, family drama
Scare score:  B-
Rating:  A-

Plot overview:  Sevens years after the events of the first film, Damien (Scott-Taylor) is now an adolescent enrolled in military school with his cousin Mark (Donat).  Having been raised by his aunt Ann (Grant) and uncle Richard Thorn (Holden) – a majorly successful industrialist – Damien is being set up for great things, but he is still unaware of his darker purpose.

(What a beautiful poster, am I right?  I want that framed in my house.)

This sequel practically blew me away.  It is filled with compelling acting and plot – and not to mention a multitude of creative and memorable deaths.  My favorite thing about this movie is that Damien – who is very cooly acted by a young Jonathan Scott-Taylor – isn’t inherently evil.  Well, I suppose he is inherently evil, only he is not aware of it.  This was such a good change for me, because by the end of the first movie I thought that the little Damien was just too annoyingly evil; I never liked that on top of how he was impossible to beat.  This teenage Damien is much more, well, human – not that he should be, but I certainly love a new take on the spawn of satan plot.  I loved how Damien is simultaneously a hero and an anti-hero; I really wish we had more horror films were the protagonist is bad.

Jerry Goldsmith (The Omen, Poltergeist) is back with the same great musical theme, which he has significantly developed to make distinct for the sequel.  The music in both movies is probably one of the most memorable aspects of the franchise, so it’s very important that our composer was still along for the ride.

Acting in this movie is very very good, which should be no surprise given big names like Lee Grant and William Holden (Sunset Boulevard is one of my favorite movies).  This movie has a very interesting way of featuring and including its varied cast of characters, resulting in a wide showcase of talent.

What’s especially interesting about this film is the continuation of the first movie’s criticism of modern issues facing America and the West.  Whereas the first film focused primarily on politics, this sequel is filled with anti-capitilst commentary.  Damien – the son of the devil – now finds himself in a powerful, wealthy, industrialist family.  He also finds himself in a military academy, which leads me to think that the creators of The Omen wished to include criticism on all of these very American establishments, thereby implementing a very supernatural power into these very real institutions, which many consider evil to some extent.

*SPOILER ALERT*
Let’s talk about some deaths!  First off, I loved the usage of the crow as the harbinger here.  Whereas we saw more of the dog in the first film, I enjoyed seeing another typically sinister animal used throughout this movie.  The scene where the crow attacks and indirectly kills reporter Joan Hart (Elizabeth Shephard) is possibly one of the most memorable of the film.  I especially love the color of her coat set against the dreary highway landscape.  I was extremely impressed by the entire sequence where Bill Atherton (Ayres) falls through the thin ice and drifts along under the frozen lake as the rest of the party-goers try desperately to help.  Then the doctor (Taylor) who becomes too suspicious of Damien’s cell composition gets into unlucky elevator #23 (hmm) only to plummet to his death.  That was a truly awesome death scene.  Who thinks of these things??

My only real issues with this movie are slight continuity ones.  I also thought it was a little silly that Damien is told to read one Bible passage which drives him almost immediately to believe that what he was told about his identity is true.  I suppose finding a unique scar doesn’t help (PS I loved that scene because it looked like a teenager trying to find the perfect selfie angle in a mirror), but it was still a pretty dramatic response to what otherwise could have been coincidental.

How do we feel about the ending of the film?  From early on, my guess was that Damien would kill his cousin and best friend Mark, which would then lead him to deny his fate and freak out in some way, preventing the completion of the satanic prophecy.  I suppose this happens to an extent?  I love the twist at the end when we find out who is and who isn’t a satanic follower, but does Damien’s reaction and response surprise us?  Is he denying his identity, or is he wiping the slate clean as he moves forward as the protagonist of an evil plot to destroy mankind?  I think it’s up to the audience to decide.

Final critique:  This movie is a really fantastic sequel.  Of course, everybody should see the original before seeing this, but I do suppose that one movie doesn’t ruin the other in terms of plot.  I loved the continuity of the Seven Daggers of Megiddo, which were introduced to us in the first film.  In terms of sequels, this is probably one of the absolute best I’ve seen, and I highly recommend it to anybody.  Prepare to be just as freaked out by this movie as you were by the first!  If you’re up for it, watch them back to back, and you’ll be in for one hell of a ride.