Damien: Omen II (1978, Don Taylor)


Spoiler warning: these reviews reveal plot twists.

Now a boy of 12, Damien Thorn is living with his uncle, Richard Thorn. But the strange deaths continue…

Best performance: Lee Grant, the second ever killer in Columbo, plays Damien’s sympathetic aunt, Ann. It’s a decent bit of acting, which throws you off the scent of what’s actually going on.

Best death: Bill Atherton (Lew Ayres), a manager at Thorn Industries who opposes plans for expansion. At a winter barbecue, a big group is playing ice hockey on the frozen lake. Presaged by incidental music with overtone singing, Bill falls through a crack in the ice. He bobs in the water for a moment, then sinks. “The current’s got him!” someone cries as Bill reappears at various points, banging on the solid surface and being pulled to and fro. Then the would-be rescuers lose sight of him…

Review: A sequel with only one returning cast member. The story picks up a week or so later and Leo McKern reprises archeologist Carl Bugenhagen in a prologue. (His beard has grown a lot fuller since we last saw him.) After he learns that the Antichrist is still alive, Bugenhagen is killed and we cut to seven years later. Damien Thorn is now a tweenager played by Jonathan Scott-Taylor, who’s appropriately unsettling in the role. It’s probably best not to question when these films are meant to be set: in the real world, it had only been 24 months since The Omen came out! But we might ask why this sequel ignores the obvious plotline of having Damien living with the President, who took him in at the end of film one. Anyway, as the story develops, threats to Damien’s Satanic destiny are met with macabre deaths (“spectacles of big-screen gore!” the making-of documentary calls them with relish). Sadly, the ambiguity of the first film has been dropped – the lad is now actually evil and has magic powers – but there are political machinations in Richard’s company and power struggles at the military academy where Damien is a pupil and Lance Henriksen is a secret ally. The story definitely falls into the basically-the-same-as-the-first-film camp. The trappings have been moved around a bit, but the structure and themes are repeats from 1976, while there are equivalents of Jennings the photographer and Mrs Baylock the nanny. It’s all a bit functional – you just wait for each inventive death scene to come along – but is a competent enough horror film.

Seven crows out of 10

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