This is a film that I finally got to see when it was shown on late-night TV. My family had by then purchased a VCR and so the timer facility came in handy if a film I wanted to see was on too late for me. I would watch these cinematic shockers the next morning. Damien: The Omen 2 was one such film.
The demonic sequel shenanigans start a week after the end of the original film. Archaeologist Carl Bugenhagen (the brilliant Leo McKern) learns from the papers that Damien is still alive and so tells his friend Michael Morgan (the equally brilliant Ian Hendry- one of the great things about The Omen films was their fantastic casting which lends the films more than a degree of prestige) that Damien is, in fact, the Antichrist (imagine slipping that into breakfast conversation!) and that he must be killed with the daggers seen in the first film. Morgan is unconvinced and so Bugenhagen takes Morgan to see Yigael’s Wall, an artwork by a monk who said he saw the Devil and had visions of him from various stages of his life. As they look at this work of art, the tunnel that contains the wall collapses and they are buried alive along with the daggers. This sets into motion a pattern. Throughout the film, anyone who opposes Damien or finds out the truth about him being the antichrist finds themselves dispatched brutally and under suspicious circumstances.
Flash forward seven years. Damien Thorn is now 12 years old and living with his uncle Richard (the brother of his adoptive father who tried to bump him off at the end of the original film), his second wife Ann and his cousin Mark. Damien and Mark are very close as they are roughly the same age, but this is much to the chagrin of Richard’s aunt Marion who thinks that Damien is a bad influence on Mark. ‘Yep, she’ll get it for sure!’ I thought as I watched the film. And she does!
On rewatching Damien: The Omen 2 I was alarmed at just how good it is. This could have been a case of the sequel going full exploitation and sacrificing the sophistication and directorial grace of the original. Granted, Damien: The Omen 2 isn’t as well directed as the original but it still holds its own.
But saying that, the sequel isn’t some anaemic bore-fest either. There are enough shocking sequences to satisfy the most avid horror fan. Just as the original film had some truly horrifying kills (the nanny hanging herself, the beheading by a pane of glass, the impaling by a falling lightning rod), the sequel has some that are just as brutal. A satanic crow replaces the Rottweiler from the first film and is responsible for a character having a huge heart attack and also pecks out another character’s eyes before she is run over by a truck. The death under frozen ice that occurs in the film is one of the most shocking kills I think I’ve ever seen in a movie. The fact that the victim can be seen through the ice drifting along but can’t be rescued was a nice touch (if you can call it that).
But another aspect of Damien: The Omen 2 which lifts it above just being a nasty shockfest is the character arc which Damien himself goes through. We see that he knows he’s different but doesn’t quite know why or how. This fits with any typical teenager, uncomfortable within their skin, trying to find their identity and place in the world (although it’s a bit more serious in this case). I also saw parallels with someone who might be gay and is slowly coming around to this realisation. These sequences also reminded me of the teenage Clark Kent and his realisation of who he really is in the original Superman film.
Damien displays his otherness throughout the film in scenes like the fight he has with one of the other cadets in the military academy in which he doesn’t have to lift a finger and also when he is naming the years of historical events when questioned by one of his teachers.
The big reveal for Damien comes later on in the film which leads him to use a mirror to look for the 666 birthmark on his scalp. He finds it and looks like he’s just been winded. He runs away, finding a solitary space to scream ‘Why me?!’ This was a great touch and a great character arc for the antichrist to be. He, of course, comes to terms with his destiny later on in the film and to chilling effect.
I also loved the relationship between Damien and Mark, which ends tragically. Mark now knows that his friend is the antichrist. Damien asks him to follow him on his journey, but by doing so Mark will have to accept and approve of who Damien really is. Mark declines and drops dead after having a seizure after Damien has caused an aneurysm in his brain to burst (a very shocking death). It’s at this point that we see that Damien has accepted his position and is willing to demolish anyone who gets in his way, even someone who is as good as family and who he has just professed to love a moment earlier. This is a stunning scene and also a very shocking one.
Another aspect of the film that I love is that there are characters that know who Damien really is, are strategically placed to make his journey to adulthood as smooth as possible so that nothing can possibly jeopardise this and are seemingly in awe of Damien. One such character is Sergeant Neff at the military academy played by the ever-brilliant Lance Henricksen. There’s a huge spoiler regarding this aspect of the film but I’m certainly not going to reveal it. Let’s just say I forgot all about it on rewatching the film. I didn’t see it coming and it came as a brilliant surprise. These characters are the mirror image of the characters who discover who Damien is and try to stop him. Empathy vs lack of empathy.
Just as the first film had an esteemed cast, the sequel also has a cast that is just as respectable. William Holden, Lee Grant, the aforementioned Leo McKern, Ian Hendry and Lance Henricksen all lend weight to the film’s gravitas and inhabit their roles amazingly. Jonathan Scott-Taylor is perfect as Damien (viewers might recognise him from one of the more renowned episodes of Tales of the Unexpected entitled Galloping Foxley).
A sequel that is almost as good as, if not as good as the original film. Who would have thought it?! Damien: The Omen 2 may lack some of the polish and directorial flare of the first film but Don Taylor does a fantastic job still. In all honesty, Damien: Omen 2 feels very different to the first film and so I don’t feel the need to compare both and try to ascertain which one I like more. Both are fantastic films and I look forward to next watching Damien’s adult hijinx in The Final Conflict.
Damien: Omen 2 has made me look at ravens in a very different light. And I will take the stairs from now on and avoid lifts at all costs.
4 stars out of 5