The Final Conflict (1981)

Director: Graham Baker

Starring: Sam Neill, Rossano Brazzi, Lisa Harrow, Don Gordon

“Your pain on the cross was but a splinter compared to the agony of my father. Cast out of heaven, the fallen angel, banished, reviled. I will drive deeper the thorns into your rancid carcass, you profaner of vices. Cursed Nazarene. Satan, I will avenge thy torment, by destroying the Christ forever.” (Damien, The Final Conflict)

It can’t be denied that Damien Thorn has done well for himself given the circumstances. After being born as the Antichrist and surviving his adopted father’s attempt to murder him in The Omen and later doing the same with his uncle in Omen II, by the start of The Final Conflict the now-adult Damien (Sam Neill) has become CEO of Thorn Industries and the American Ambassador for Great Britain. Not bad for the son of the devil.

"I'm not really the Antichrist. It's just a movie. I did go to Jurassic Park, though"

As you may expect by the film’s title however, shit’s about to go down for Damien, and said faecal matter comes in the form of the Nazarene, the second coming of Christ. Damien figures out that Christ is due to be reborn on 24 March 1982, so he orders one of his disciples to kill all the baby boys born on that date.

Meanwhile, a group of monks have managed to get hold of the seven holy daggers that are to be used to kill the Antichrist, and so they set about trying to kill Damien. In short, things could be going better for D-Tho.

"Yes, my pram's got all the latest features. The only thing it can't survive is car impact but that seems unlikely"

Sam Neill is undoubtedly the star of the show. This is the first Omen movie in which Damien starts fully aware of who he is and what he’s capable of, and at times Neill’s performance is unsettling to say the least. It also helps that his character is a complete prick (it goes with the territory, after all) – he seduces a journalist trying to get close to him, while at the same time turning her young son into one of his disciples and getting him to do errands for him.

Stan realised too late that someone had switched his cocaine with gunpowder

That aside however, The Final Conflict is disappointing. It’s a hell of a slow burner – it’ll be half an hour before anything of note starts to happen – and the scenes clearly intended to be the chilling high points are so sloppily handled that they’re fairly ineffective. A car slamming into a baby’s pram should be a shocking moment, but the film is almost impressive in how dull it manages to make what should be a memorable scene.

Rather than the gripping climax to the Omen series it should be, The Final Conflict is a bit of a damp squib. It’s not a terrible film by any means but it’s so devoid of anything truly gripping or memorable that it’s ultimately a bit of an underwhelming end to an otherwise great trilogy.

Damien: Omen II (1978)

Director: Don Taylor

Starring: William Holden, Jonathan Scott-Taylor, Lance Henriksen

“For such are false apostles. Deceitful workers whom lie and transform themselves to look like real apostles of Christ.” (Corinthians 11:13)

When you’ve already revealed in the original film that the main character is the Antichrist, how do you deliver a similar revelation in the sequel? Simple – make it so the nasty little bugger in question doesn’t know it yet.

That’s the premise in Damien: Omen II, which is set seven years after the events of its predecessor. Now 13 years old and living with his uncle and aunt, Damien has been protected from the past and as such doesn’t know what happened to his mother and father in the events of the first movie. He’s just a normal, cheery boy who happens to be part of the wealthy Thorn family.

"You're laughing now but wait until my dad wrecks the bloody joint"

It’s only when he goes to military camp with his cousin and starts hurting a bully by simply staring at him that Damien begins to notice something out of the ordinary is happening. Others – including his sergeant (the awesome Lance Henriksen) and the vice-president of Thorn Industries – seem to know who Damien really is, and are keen to help him discover his true identity.

Meanwhile, as in the original film, anyone who suspects Damien’s secret and tries to put a stop to it inevitably meet their fate in all manner of horrific ways. Trucks, trains, elevators… they’re all involved in some of the gruesome deaths this time around.

"Alright, who said that? I could have sworn someone said Pumpkinhead was shite"

Indeed, Omen II feels a bit like an attempt to recreate much of what made the original film so memorable. There are the nasty deaths, the doom-and-gloom “he will destroy us all” people who are shunned by Damien’s uncle, the eventual realisation that it’s true and the subsequent attempt to stop him – all of which feel very similar to events in The Omen. There’s even an evil animal in there, though it’s a raven this time instead of the first film’s dogs.

While it doesn’t quite have the same storytelling flair, chilling moments and impressive cast as the original film (Henriksen aside), Omen II is still a decent little film. The acting’s solid enough for the most part – although the young chap playing Damien is irritating for the first 20 minutes – the story moves along at a fair pace and there’s a reasonably satisfying conclusion to the whole thing.

"It's not a shit haircut, it's en evil haircut. Get your facts right mate"

It just feels at times a bit like The Omen Lite, an attempt to replicate the impact of the original but one that cuts out vital ingredients in doing so. There’s no equivalent of the first movie’s mental Mrs Baylock to keep viewers on their toes, there’s no big shock as to the lead character’s secret identity because we already had that shock in the previous film, and – ironically – since the ‘smears on photos predicting deaths’ idea from its predecessor is no longer here, there isn’t actually an omen to speak of either.

That said, it’s still an interesting follow-up to the original film, and one that provides a decent midway point between The Omen and the significantly different The Omen III: The Final Conflict. Just don’t go rushing out to see it if you haven’t seen the original first.

The Omen (1976)

Director: Richard Donner

Starring: Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner, Harvey Stephens, Billie Whitelaw

“Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666” (Revelations 13:18)

After the phenomenal success of The Exorcist it was inevitable that some imitators would appear to try and cash in on all the “yay God, boo the devil” sentiment among moviegoers. While a number of low-budget attempts failed miserably it would be The Omen, released three years after The Exorcist, that would successfully manage to effectively compete for the coveted crown of Best Horror Film About A Little Child With Links To Satan But It’s Not A Horror Film Honest Mate It’s A Faith-Based Thriller. And that’s a highly competitive sub-genre.

Mrs Thorn felt uneasy as she saw Michael Barrymore arriving for the party

The Omen follows Robert Thorn (Peck), an American Ambassador and potential future President of the United States. His wife unfortunately has a stillborn child at the start of the film but she remains unconscious for a while after the delivery and so isn’t immediately aware of this. A priest offers Robert a solution – a healthy orphan newborn whose mother has died in childbirth and has no immediate family. Thorn takes the baby and tells his none-the-wiser wife it belongs to them.

"What? Oh we were just digging up this grave to give the skeleton some air. We definitely weren't going to have sex with it"

Fast-forward five years and weird things start happening. At their son Damien’s fifth birthday party their nanny hangs herself in front of all the guests, declaring to Damien that it’s “all for you”. A replacement nanny turns up out of the blue and, along with her rottweiler dog, show an unhealthy interest in taking care of Damien.

Things start going tits-up when Thorn is approached by a priest, who claims he was there when Thorn’s adopted son was born. He tells him Damien is actually the Antichrist, the Devil’s son, and that Thorn has to start accepting Christ if he wants to survive. Thorn isn’t having any of it, and shortly afterwards the priest dies in a freak accident where he’s impaled with a spear-like church spire.

"That's odd, I'm sure my black telephone is always sitting right here"

A journalist called Jennings (Warner) shows Thorn photos he took of the nanny and priest before they died. Both have dark marks over them in the shape of a noose and a spear respectively. What’s more, Jennings had taken a photo of himself and in it there’s a dark line across his neck. DUN DUN DUNNNNN.

Despite the whole spooky child premise and the Satanic element The Omen doesn’t really have much in common with The Exorcist. Damien doesn’t ever really do anything in the way Reagan does, it merely seems to be the case that odd things happen around him. Instead the film feels more like a predecessor to more modern movies like Final Destination and The Ring in that it revolves around premonitions of deaths about to occur (or omens, if you will).

Well hello there, little chap! Aren't you a cute little OH JESUS CHRIST MY EYES ARE ON FIRE

As a result of this, despite any suspicions you may have The Omen actually isn’t that scary at all. The fear comes in the concern that Damien is about to suddenly snap, expose himself as the devil’s son and do something evil, a concern that ultimately leads to nothing. Its few deaths, while effectively directed, are still handled in a way that they’re not too shocking with the possible exception of the film’s most famous scene, involving a stray pane of glass. Instead it’s more of a paranormal thriller, a race against time to figure out why these deaths are happening and how to put an end to them before any more occur.

Perhaps the most effective thing about the film however is the music. Jerry Goldsmith’s iconic Latin chanting and dramatic orchestral score is so effective and adds so much to the action it won him his only Oscar, impressive considering his life’s work included scores for the likes of Poltergeist,  LA Confidential, Chinatown, Gremlins, First Blood, Alien, Mulan and Planet Of The Apes.

If you’re expecting spinning heads and an evil kid going on a rampage, that’s not what The Omen is all about. If you’re looking for a creepy movie with an underlying sense of unease however, rather than a balls-to-the-wall demonfest, then The Omen is a mini masterpiece.