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The Omen Trilogy

The Omen (October 28/08)

There's little doubt that The Omen, flawed as it may be, ultimately fares a whole lot better than its 2006 remake, with Gregory Peck's compelling performance and Richard Donner's expectedly steady direction certainly proving instrumental in the movie's mild success. The deliberately-paced storyline - which follows Peck's Robert Thorn as he becomes convinced that his adopted son Damien (Harvey Stephens) is actually the Antichrist - boasts a number of thoroughly chilling elements that slowly-but-surely afford the proceedings a palpable atmosphere of dread, as screenwriter David Seltzer punctuates the film's first half with such distinctly horrific happenings as the public suicide of Damien's nanny and a vicious baboon attack during a trip to the zoo. The familiarity of the film's various creepy happenings isn't as problematic as one might've feared, with Peck's strong, downright sympathetic work effectively selling the over-the-top developments that effectively convince his character that something sinister is afoot. It's only as the film progresses that one's interest starts to wane, with Thorn's investigation into Damien's origins growing increasingly stagnant as it progresses. And while the movie does recover for an admittedly thrilling finale - instigated by the justifiably legendary death of David Warner's character - The Omen is simply not able to live up to its reputation as a classic of the horror genre.

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Damien: Omen II (October 29/08)

There's little doubt that Damien: Omen II primarily comes off as a surprisingly organic follow-up to its 1976 predecessor, as director Don Taylor has infused the proceedings with a level of consistency that effectively continues the storyline established within the original. The movie picks up seven years after the events of The Omen, with Damien (Jonathan Scott-Taylor) now attending military school and slowly-but-surely coming to grips with his decidedly ominous destiny - much to the chagrin of adopted parents Richard (William Holden) and Ann (Lee Grant). Damien: Omen II has been saddled with precisely the sort of deliberate pace that one might've expected, as screenwriters Stanley Mann and Mike Hodges initially place the emphasis on entirely uneventful happenings (ie Richard's various business dealings) that seem to exist only to pad out the running time. It subsequently goes without saying that the sparse yet effective kill sequences prove to be a highlight almost immediately, although - admittedly - there's nothing here that quite compares to the infamous decapitation from the first film (Meschach Taylor's doomed elevator ride does come close, however). The inclusion of a weird (but thankfully short-lived) subplot detailing Damien's mixed feelings regarding his true identity doesn't really jibe with his overtly sinister demeanor, while the movie's structure oftentimes seems just a little too reminiscent to that of its forebearer's (something that's particularly true of Richard's creeping realization that Damien is up to no good). The end result is an effort that'll satisfy fans of Richard Donner's original, though detractors will probably find little here worth embracing.

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The Final Conflict (October 30/08)

The Omen trilogy comes to a close with this expectedly uneven installment, in which a grown-up Damien's (Sam Neill) rise to power is temporarily foiled by a cabal of knife-wielding monks and the possible second coming of Jesus Christ himself. Much like its predecessors, The Final Conflict has been saddled with an overlong running time that's often exacerbated by the inclusion of padded-out and entirely needless sequences - with the almost egregiously laid-back pace certainly not helping matters. There's little doubt, however, that Neill's irresistibly sinister performance goes a long way towards sustaining one's interest through the movie's dull patches, while it's awfully hard not to admire the degree to which screenwriter Andrew Birkin has embraced the inherently dark nature of the film's storyline (something that's particularly true of the genuinely shocking baby-killing montage). The proliferation of unanswered questions - where did all of Damien's disciples come from? why can't you just lop his head off? - remains a fairly consistent distraction, although, to the film's credit, the admittedly over-the-top conclusion does an effective job of wrapping up the Damien saga. And although the film lamentably contains far less gore than either The Omen or Damien: Omen II, The Final Conflict will undoubtedly leave fans of the series satisfied (casual viewers, on the other hand, will surely find themselves baffled by the franchise's enduring success).

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About the DVD: The Omen series arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, armed with absolutely flawless 1080p transfers and a whole host of bonus features (Damien and The Final Conflict come equipped only with commentary tracks, but The Omen has been infused with a veritable treasure trove of extras). The set also includes the 2006 remake of The Omen, but the less said about that one the better.
© David Nusair