Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, March 7, 2013


Elizabeth Shepherd and a malevolent raven
DAMIEN: OMEN 2 (1978). Director: Don Taylor.

In the first sequel to The Omen, the devilish little boy is now 13 and living with his "father's" brother Richard Thorn (William Holden), Thorn's second wife, Ann (Lee Grant), and his son by a first marriage, Marc (Lucas Donat), in the suburbs of Chicago. Damien (Jonathan Scott-Taylor) is surrounded by Satanists who are anxious to reveal to him his identity and his destiny. At first Damien is rather horrified by these revelations, but he seems to grow into the role with relative ease. The movie doesn't tackle any of this on an intellectual level (which might be impossible in any case) but functions primarily as a slick thriller with some exciting and gruesome set pieces as the devil, represented by a black crow or raven, disposes of anyone who might be a threat to Damien (although it seems like definite overkill if not paranoia in certain cases.) A snoopy reporter (Elizabeth Shepherd) is attacked by the raven and blinded, then hit by a semi in one well-handled if brutal sequence. A doctor (Meshach Taylor) is cut in two during a horrific elevator "accident." But possibly the most disturbing and effective death scene has Thorn's colleague Bill Atheron (Lew Ayres) disappearing under the ice during a hocky game on the Thorn's frozen lake; this is a particularly powerful sequence. The performances from the entire cast are on the money, which certainly helps the audience to suspend disbelief in the absurd goings-on, and it all moves fast so there's no time to wonder what these Satanists expect to get when Damien, the trickster, takes over. Scott-Taylor is excellent as Damien; Lucas Donat, great-nephew of Robert Donat, is quite good but apparently only made this one movie. Other well-known names in the cast include Robert Foxworth (Falcon Crest) as one of Thorn's ambitious employees and Lance Henriksen [Alien vs. Predator] as an instructor at Damian's military academy. Nicholas Pryor makes an impression as the terrified curator Charles, as does Sylvia Sidney as Thorn's disapproving (of Damien) sister, Marion. The movie benefits greatly from a terrific score by Jerry Goldsmith, who recognized that while The Omen was a chiller, the sequel is a thriller, and scored it appropriately. Followed by The Final Conflict. Director Taylor was originally an actor in such films as The Girls of Pleasure Island and I'll Cry Tomorrow. Most of his directorial assignments were for television.

Verdict: Well-produced, entertaining, and energetic hokum. ***.

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