Look at this kid the wrong way and it’s your funeral…
Is it just a coincidence there are lots of grisly deaths connected with Damien, or is he the spawn of the Devil?
The Omen 2: Damien (1978) – Trailer The Film Archives, The Film Archives and photos from 20th Century Fox
Many dismiss Damien: Omen II (1978) as the most forgettable of the original Omen trilogy. The Omen film series tells of those exploits of one Damien Thorne, aka the son of the Devil from birth until… It has one of the most easily recognisable musical scores of this time, Ave Satani.
I remember on watching this particular Omen film at my first viewing, that I didn’t know any of the cast. I only recalled it as not being as good as the other two and about a teenage Damien. That was about it.
I’d watched the first three Omen movies, back in the day with my dad. Along with equally silly almost comic horror gems such as The Medusa Touch (1978), The Hand (1981) and The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970). These films had more memorable leading actors than music with Richard Burton, Michael Caine and Roger Moore respectively.
So over a couple of retro horror-themed movie nights, Darlin Husband and I re-watched the box set of the Omen trilogy franchise with the first followed by the third. We both had no problem with skipping the second movie, as like me Darlin Husband dismissed it as hokum. However, not long after that, I discovered that the stars of this movie were actually as prolific as those others in that trilogy.
After joining this year’s William Holden tribute I discovered he was the top-billed actor in this film. With Nicholas Pryor, Lew Ayres and Robert Foxworth supporting him. Holden’s leading lady was an actress who has probably starred in more of my guilty pleasures than anyone else so far, Lee Grant. And an actress I reviewed in those other memorable roles as Queen of the
Bee B Movies in The Swarm (1978) and Airport 77 (1978) (also with Foxworth). And Lance Henriksen. So with a sterling seventies cast like this, I really couldn’t review anything else.
This film’s plot starts a week after the first film’s storyline finishes. In a wee epilogue, we are reintroduced to the archaeologist and Antichrist specialist from the first movie, Carl Bugenhagen (Leo McKern). He is seen gittering wildly to a friend Michael (Ian Hendry) about evil, wee Damien Thorn, a child who he says is Satan’s spawn. He believes many people’s untimely deaths are linked with the child.
Their deaths are, to be fair but without giving away any spoilers of the who, how and when from the first movie (reviewed HERE). This cast included – in no particular order – Billie Whitelaw, Patrick Troughton, David Warner, Lee Remick and Gregory Peck. It introduced us to the evil one from birth to about 5 years old. But it did end, with wee Damien being looked after by the US President but how, when and why of his killings is revealed in the movie (and some mentioned in that post). But I digress and back to Omen II.
Bugenhagen has read in a newspaper that this kid is now living with his Uncle Richard Thorn. Bugenhagen tells his friend, Michael that Damien has a birthmark resembling the number 666 on his head and says he can only be killed using seven legendary daggers. And asks his friend to take a letter about this child and those daggers to his now guardian.
His friend doesn’t believe him (and tbh who can blame him). So Bugenhagen takes Michael to Yigael’s Wall which has a wee natty Damien themed mural of the boy in illustrations throughout his life (with then no indication of a third movie let alone those TV movies). Then the tunnel collapses with Bugenhagen, pal and box all drowning in sand.
Flashforward seven years, Damien (Jonathan Scott-Taylor) is now 13 and attending military school with his similarly aged cousin, Mark. Damien seems a pleasant enough kid on first impressions, he seems to have a loving relationship with his Uncle Richard (Holden), Auntie Ann (Grant) and Mark (Lucas Donat). While the boys are returning to school by car, Richard and his second wife Ann are entertaining a visitor, Richard’s elderly Aunt Marion (Sylvia Sidney).
Marion tells the adults, there’s something about Damien she just doesn’t like – after all his brother Robert did try to kill him – and she thinks he’s a bad influence on Mark. So she vents all at a dinner with Ann and Richard. Even the presence of the Thorn Museum’s curator Dr Charles Warren (Pryor) doesn’t stop her outburst. Marion dislikes Damien so much that she will even cut Richard out of her will if he continues to send the boys to the same school.
Needless to say, Richard and Ann are horrified at her outburst, both believing the best in young Damien. With Ann becoming terribly angry at the dotty one’s ramblings. The calmer, though angry Richard dismisses Marion as crazy, placates his irate spouse.
As Marion retires for the night, Richard and Ann are shown a slide show showing new artefacts for the Thorn Museum. Pryor shows a slide of a journalist, Joan Hart who saw the Yigael’s Wall’s mural. Hart is now keen to meet with Richard for an interview. Meanwhile, a raven appears in Marion’s bedroom, then that ominous Ave Satani music… and she dies of a heart attack.
Meanwhile, the boys are at military school with the only evidence so far Damien is a bad un is trying to procure a cigarette from the family chauffeur. The boys meet the new Platoon Officer, Sergeant Daniel Neff (Henriksen), who says he wants to excel in his new post. Meanwhile, Richard is rescued from his apparently dull work at Thorn Industries, by Ann who has discovered Aunt Marion’s lifeless body.
On leaving work Richard encounters Hart who barges her way into his car, he throws her out when she starts ranting about Damien, the wall and someone she feels died because of Damien. So the journalist goes to see Damien for herself and is spooked out when she sees him. And then on driving home that Thorn bird appears… and Hart’s car engine stops working…
The film on watching it again had to its credit a wonderful wee epilogue preparing you with that essential information needed for the second movie. It was useful in telling you who Damien was and how he could be killed. But it did assume that you had seen the first movie, by giving away the most significant part of the ending.
As Bugenhagen and his friend died in the sand… it set the movie up for more characters who on finding out Damien’s identity, lead to their gruesome, untimely deaths. With the Thorn Bird in tow, Damien almost decimated the cast. And it almost turned into a Casualty (1986-) episode where you could spot the victim and the way he would die before it happened. Although at times the use of dummies was almost laughable, there were a few genuine horror-filled scenes.
I loved William Holden in this film, playing the mild-mannered, genial uncle throughout and almost a bit too trusting of Damien, as his “innocent” nephew. However, with his character only getting the reports of those deaths – and us getting the full story of Damien from all and sundry – it was to him these must-have merely looked coincidental. Holden played the supportive, protective uncle, father and husband role amiably with all the cast.
Even after he found the evidence appearing to incriminate young Damien, he trusted him. His on-screen rapport with his screen wife Grant was quite sweet, warm and touching. Their scenes show their closeness as a family with the younger members of the cast almost like they were in a completely different movie genre. Less horror, more schmaltzy family movie. But to me, Damien’s close relationship with his uncle could have been developed further, especially after Damien became upset after he discovered his true identity.
After seeing the second film again as much as I enjoyed it I found some parts of this sequel’s storyline frustrating. The first film shows a quite possibly disturbing cliffhanger to the film, where young Damien is being cared for by the President of the US of A. So why not carry on that storyline, it certainly would be a far more interesting premise than Thorn Industries’ expansion subplot. Which was a bit bo-ring.
The story could have then continued as it did, but with this particular Presidential guardian, a bit of a twist. It would have been interesting to see how the White House would have coped with the bodies piling up. This part of the storyline instead was ignored, and not even mentioned. Another part of the storyline, but left hanging was that Ann was noted to be Richard Thorn’s second wife.
As his first wife was never mentioned, we could possibly go down the conspiracy theory line believing Uncle Richard knows his nephew, Damien killed her – and therefore his true identity – is covering up to all and sundry. Instead of leaving you wondering if the relevance of this fact was cut out of the film.
But now on re-watching this film I would easily add it to its rightful place as second in the next rewatch of this film series. It may be hokum, but it is fun hokum .. as most seventies horrors are. And it has got me in the frame of mind to watch Omen III (1981) again. That being the one with Sam Neill as an adult Damien. But as for those TV movies, I’ve got a bad feeling about them…
Weeper Rating: 0/10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂 🙂🙂🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂10
Hulk Rating: /10
This film review was added to The Wonderful World of Cinema, Love Letters to Old Hollywood and The Flapper Dame‘s The William Holden Centenary, 3rd Golden Boy Blogathon. Other film reviews here with this cast include William Holden in Fedora, Network, The Towering Inferno and Bridge on the River Kwai. Sylvia Sidney in Mars Attacks posts. Lee Grant stars in The Swarm, Columbo and Airport 77. Robert Foxworth also stars in Airport 77, Murder She Wrote and Columbo. Lance Henriksen stars in The Visitor. Lew Ayres starred in Hotel and Fantasy Island. Leo McKern stars in Murder with Mirrors.