This post originally appeared on My Floating Red Couch for the Holden vs. DiCaprio Grudgematch. Check out the Battle to see more!
Oy, what a trudge this movie is, and from the beginning, might I add. It opens with Carl Bugenhagen (Leo McKern), a character from the previous film, breathlessly telling us the plot of the last film. It would have been less expensive but infinitely more awesome had they just brought out classic ABC announcer Ernie Anderson to say, “Previously… on The Omen“, then provided some quick clips while Ave Satani plays at a progressively more urgent pace:
“Look at me, Damien! It’s all for you!” *plunge to death*
“For it is the number of man, and the number is 666!” *shot of 666 on Damien’s scalp; Lee Remick gasps*
“He must die, Mr. Thorn!” *Harvey Stephens stares; Gregory Peck turns in shock and fear*
“We stand on the brink… of Armageddon!” *music swells then abruptly ends*
Announcer: “This summer… Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner, and introducing Harvey Stephens in… THE OMEN.”
Making up TV trailers for horror movies is more fun than Damien: Omen II, by the way.
Damien, as you well know, became an orphan after essentially killerating his adoptive parents. His dad’s brother Richard (William Holden) has now adopted the little hellspawn himself, and the soon-to-be 13-year-old Satan baby is off at military school. Richard’s rich Aunt Marion somehow knows Damien is evil, and over dinner she threatens to cut off Richard’s inheritance if he doesn’t separate Mark and Damien.
Aunt Marion (Sylvia Sidney) is portrayed as cranky and unlikeable. Meanwhile, Damien seems like a normal kid. It’s the standard (read: lazy) fakeout used by mediocre films to make us think she’s unreasonable and Damien is a nice, normal teenage boy, which is patently absurd given that this is a sequel to the movie that made the Damien character iconic. We all know Damien is Satan. It’s a waste of our time to be coy about this.
After cranky auntie goes to bed, Charles shows Richard and Ann slides of an ancient statue of the Whore of Babylon, a statue we only 15 minutes earlier saw being destroyed by the same cave-in that took the lives of Bugenhagen and Michael seven years earlier. Way to go, continuity guys who are suspiciously uncredited!
Damien: Omen II isn’t just sloppy, it’s boring. It has that annoying B-movie tendency for all the characters involved to not only know each other, but to have unconvincing business with each other. Richard Thorn owns the Thorn Museum which is oh-so-conveniently getting the Whore of Babylon statue and various artifacts which are necessary for killing the Antichrist. A woman in the slides of the Whore of Babylon is a reporter who wants to interview Thorn. One of Thorn’s top men at Thorn Industries is a secret satanist sent to help Damien. Damien, who is unaware of his destiny (I thought it was implied that he knew who he was in the original film, inasmuch as a 6-year-old can know such things), is sent to a military school where Sergeant Neff (Lance Hendrickson) is also a satanist sent to help him.
Similarly, the characters often act in ways that make no sense except to advance the plot. Richard Thorn learns that two men died near the ancient artifacts seven years earlier and doesn’t care; then the lady who tries to interview him is killed in a freak accident, and I don’t think he even knows; his right-hand man (Lew Ayers) is killed when he falls through the ice at Richard’s home and all Richard does is go on vacation; the deaths of people closely associated with Damien just keep on comin’ and Richard just keeps on ignorin’ ’em. At one point a doctor (Meshach Taylor) who discovers the truth about Damien dies — he’s about the 147th person associated with Damien to kick it in a strange way — and Richard’s wife says, “We were just talking to him yesterday when he wanted to do those tests on Damien!” Richard still has no clue.
Much of the issue here is Holden’s dry, bland performance. He sleepwalks through the film, his lack of concern broken up only by occasional slurring and flashes of inappropriate anger.
To be fair, it’s possible Holden had some solid acting moments that ended up on the editing room floor. The script of the movie as filmed appears to be filled with action and intense emotion, but the director apparently wanted a more cerebral, suspenseful tone, and these two halves rarely meet to provide a satisfying cinematic whole. Holden’s low-impact performance theoretically could have contained some end-of-scene meaningful looks, frustrations, even agitation, things that could possibly have balanced out an otherwise static character, but as far as we the audience know, the dull, minimal performance we see is the one he gave.
When Damien: Omen II wasn’t giving me the bad movie drowsies, it did provide some unintentional chuckles. At one point Charles, speaking of the recently dead reporter, states she was hit by a truck “on a deserted highway.” The presence of the truck directly contradicts you, Charles. And of course a fellow student at the military school, talking about the influential Thorn family, says “the Thorns make their own hats because the stores don’t sell them large enough for their big heads!”
Proof for the nonbelievers: William Holden as Richard Thorn is a fathead.
Hate away, I can’t stop you. But I am a fan of this flick–it’s stupid and pointless and everything you say…and I still watch it semi-religiously. All those stupid people getting killed ridiculously. I’m giggling just thinking about it!
And I love, love, LOVE Jerry Goldsmith’s absurd and super-over-the-top music. I even own the CD.
BTW, some of the flick’s structural problems may stem from the original director, Mike Hodges (of Get Carter and Croupier fame, and Flash Gordon infamy), was fired and replaced unceremoniously.
A fun write-up, thanks!
I can’t say that I much like any of the Omen movies, including the first one. I like the crow imagery in this one, though. Much better than the dogs in the first one. Dogs don’t read as evil to me the same way that crows do. But, yeah, the characters here are pretty stupid. And Lee Grant as the Whore of Babylon? That’s a stretch. I do like the way that anyone who even looks sideways at Damien suddenly becomes a character whose path has been crossed by a black cat in a Tex Avery cartoon. Doesn’t make for good drama, though.
Another Don Taylor film! I just slogged one on ramp-f (The Great Scout and Cathouse Thursday).
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