The Do-Over (The Omen 666, 2006)

the_Omen_2006_PosterWell…someone decided they needed to get a remake out by June 6th, 2006. In a weird twist, screenwriter of the original film returned to write this remake. I call it a weird twist because in a documentary about the original four films, Seltzer did not write the sequels because he does not do sequels.

The result is an almost shot for shot remake of the original.  Not like Gus Van Zandt’s Psycho remake. There are slight differences here and there.

Mia Farrow’s performance as the nanny seems sweeter throughout the film, which make the sequence where she enters the hospital where Julie Style’s Katherine Thorn is being cared for really ominous.

The original film had a child in the role that was cherubic…adorable. You knew he was bad, but you could not help but sympathize. Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick is made to look creepy in every shot.  He is a scary kid.

The film is full of stylistic flourish, but it just feels like an imitation, trying to up the horrors of the original, but oddly falling short.

 

the_Omen_4_posterSo…the Fox Network was in it’s infancy…and they were mining their properties for TV movies. And someone thought a brilliant idea was to remake the Omen…but eventually, we got a a sequel.

Now, mind you, the last film ended with Christ having returned to reign.  So, apparently the world never noticed and the world is still a crappy place. Attorneys Gene and Karen York happily adopt a young baby girl named Delia. After they leave, a young nun is racked with guilt and leaves her calling. Delia grow to come a wicked child. Then Karen starts to think her baby girl is psycho and hires a detective to find out where Delia really came from.

A bunch of people die in crazy events, then Karen realizes she is pregnant and the baby is the real antichrist…Delia was just it’s protector.

This film is pretty terrible. In an attempt to invert the original, the nanny is a new age girl who uses crystals and reads auras and stuff. She brings Delia to a New Age fair and things go nuts. It is such a goofier approach than the original film. The entire film is full of hammy acting and has a serious lack of drama or consequence. And it undoes the original trilogy entirely.

Okay, Michael Lerner’s detective’s death is crazy hilarious.

the_Omen_3_PosterAt one point, there were as many as six planned sequels for the original Omen film. As time passed, producer Harvey Bernard settled on a trilogy.

Picking up with the now 33 years old Damien as the head of a powerful corporation, he has fully embraced who he is to be. After a horrible tragedy, he is tapped to be the ambassador to Great Britain (the same role as his adoptive father in the first film). Damien is a charismatic star player in politics.

A group of monks are seeking to kill Damien, but he foils them at every turn, with bizarre accidents that escalate in to straight up murder. At the same time, journalist Kate Reynolds and Damien strike up a relationship. The single mother is swayed by his charms.

Part of Damien’s plan is to thwart the second coming of Christ. The Christ child was born again during an alignment of stars and Damien has his assistant Harvey put into action the murder of every infant born on that night. Harvey has a secret and tries to keep Damien from discovering that Harvey’s own son was born on that night.

While the film takes all sorts of liberties (there is no prophetic belief that Jesus will return as an infant) it does some nice references (such as the slaughter of the innocents the evokes the action of the King in the Gospels).

Sam Neil is quite charismatic and yet ominous at the same time. Even as he faces Christ his is defiant.

A lot of what I find makes the trilogy of films work is their sincerity. I know I said this about the Exorcist, but it is just as true here as with those films. It is the dedication to taking the idea of God and Satan at war with each other seriously that overcomes the sillier aspects of the films. Especially how they had to constantly escalate the deaths.

While the sequels do not live up to the original, the original trilogy is still an effective overall tale.

the_Omen_2_PosterBecause there was a law that they had to have a leading actress named Lee in the Omen franchise, we got a sequel.

Okay…none of that is true.  We did, of course, get a sequel. But to be honest, if there is a story that kind of demands it continue? The Omen was it.

Set about eight years after the first film, Damien is being raised by his aunt and uncle. Along with his cousin Mark, he is in a military academy.

Damien starts to become aware of his calling, no longer an innocent child, he starts to take steps towards embracing his future.

There are those that aid him, such as Lance Henriksen’s Sgt. Neff. But there are those who oppose him (part of the religious groups that are out to stop the rise of the Anti-Christ). And then there are those that start to put together a grave connection between Damien and prophecy.

The film ups the ante with some of the deaths, witch a major set-piece including an elevator. Instead of dogs, the main scary animal are ravens. This works out well, as the ravens add their own eerie atmosphere.

As sequels go, Damien: The Omen II is a decent enough follow-up.  It sticks to it’s formula, but not in a way that lazily repeats itself. This is a coming of age story that comes together pretty well.

Now, for the longest time, my memory had it set as historical fact that Henry Thomas of E.T. was Damien.  Now, had I sat down and done the math, Henry would have been about five at the time of filming. So, my apologies to Jonathan Scott-Taylor, the actual young man who played Damien. But come on…surely you can see how my memory made this egregious error!

Halloween_PosterIt has been forty years since the rampage of Michael Myers in Haddonfield, IL.  And Michael Myers absolutely was caught and has been institutionalized ever since. He totally did not massacre a hospital or anything else.

The trauma had a profound effect on Laurie Strode, who is totally not the sister of Michael Myers. When Myers is being transferred to a tougher facility, the bus crashes and Myers escapes.  He goes on a new and bloodier rampage, while Laurie tries to protect her estranged daughter and her family.

Myers is not driven to find Laurie because he is her sister, he just is a big believer in finishing what you start…? So, much has been made of the fact that this film is a direct sequel to the original John Carpenter Classic.   There is a throwaway line that pretty much pushes all the other films into the realm of “urban legends” which…I guess works.  Admittedly, it makes some of this feel less personal. But at the same time, the portrayal of Laurie as a survivor of a brutal event who became fueled by her fear and paranoia to never be a victim again (shades of Terminator 2 here, including the pained relationship with her daughter who was taken away from her by the state, as she was training her to be a warrior) is really pretty exciting here.  Curtis is really great in the role.  And she shines each time she is on screen. There is a lot of meat for her here.

The film has some great callbacks to the original with little moments and visual cues. It also has some beautifully lit shots.

The film is really overloaded with characters, and this results in characters you kind of expect to matter more suddenly are just out of the story.  Now granted, some of the characters kind of stand out as victims. But Laurie’s grand daughter is a huge focus and then she disappears for nearly the entire sequence where Michael and Laurie are stalking each other through Laurie’s house. Granddaughter Allison’s boyfriend seems like he will play a pretty big role and literally just drops out of the film, never to be seen again.

There is at least one twist that seems to be either super predictable or totally out of left field depending on who you ask…but…oh well…

Is this a new classic entry in the franchise?  Well…not really.  Is it bad? No.  I actually really did enjoy the film. It can be uneven, but it is still an enjoyable ride. It does rise above a lot of the previous films in the franchise.  Again, Curtis is really good (really, the core cast of Curtis, Greer, Will Patton and Matichak is great).  Plus, the new Carpenter soundtrack is just killer all the way through.  I kid you not, that was almost worth the price of admission alone for me.

the_Omen_1976_PosterThe book of 1st John 4:3 states “but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.”  A couple centuries back, the concept of pre-tribulation raptures and a singular big “A” Antichrist took hold. There was an obsession with this brand of dispensationalism in the 70’s.  There was the book the Late Great Planet Earth (which spun off a “documentary”) and a series of low budget Christian films starting with a Thief in the Night.

But Hollywood wanted in on this too. The end result is the Omen, directed by Richard Donner and starring Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner and one of the Doctors.

Robert and Katherine Thorne are grieving over their stillborn child when a priest offers the opportunity to bring home an infant whose mother died giving birth.  And so they raise the young boy named Damien as their own.  As time passes, strange events seem to surround the boy. He also behaves strangely, for instance freaking out as if in great pain as they approach a church. On his fifth birthday, everyone is shocked as his nanny publicly hangs herself.

The new nanny, who brings a large and imposing dog with her, is seemingly a bit odd. Robert is approached by individuals who claim his son is part of ancient prophecy. They hope to stop the rise of the Antichrist and are convinced it is young Damien. I mean, he is, because that is what the movie is about.

Peck brings an air of serious authority, which helps ground the film. There are some really effective bits, such as a photographer who notices a patter in certain anomalies of photos he has taken.

The film embraces the subject matter without any embarrassment. They are not worried about viewers thinking it is silly, and the performances give the story weight. The music by Jerry Goldsmith is quite iconic with it’s ominous church choir.

The Omen is one of the best Antichrist films, and holds up pretty well over forty years later.

 

Next Level (The Vatican Tapes, 2015)

The_Vatican_Tapes_PosterI gotta admit…I kind of thought this was a found footage film. Turns out it is not.

Angela Holmes seems to be a regular young woman. She and her husband seem to have a happy life, she has a father who feels nobody is good enough for his daughter. But then mysterious and fatal events occur around Angela. Father Lozano, a former military man turned priest becomes intertwined with their lives. While doctors try and find a natural phenomenon, Lozano suspects it may  be more.

After an incident with a mental health facility, she is put into the hands of the church.  And Exorcist is brought in to set Angela free. But things turn out to be far worse than they ever imagined, and their failure could doom the world.

The Vatican Tapes are a blend of your standard possession film with a slight twist into another genre of religious horror.

The performances are good, and I especially like Péna as father Lozano. The Vatican Tapes was better than I expected, but is never all that scary. Even the exorcism feels more like an action movie.  But I was entertained.

Soul to Soul (Fallen, 1998)

Fallen_PosterHomicide Detective John Hobbs is witnessing the execution of serial killer Edgar Reese. Reese goes from mocking everyone to terror, claiming innocence as he dies. Not long after, killings bearing the mark of Reese begin to occur.  Is it a copycat? Something more sinister?

In fact, as Hobbs tries to put all the pieces together, he finds himself pulled into a world of angels and demons and possession. He discovers that Reese was a host to an ancient evil that has survived…and can be anyone…and it seems to have a fondness for torturing Hobbs.

The film is directed by Gregory Hoblit, who had directed the film Primal Fear just two years.  Like that film, this one works within a clever conceit to surprise the viewer in the end.

It is full of terrific actors to support Washington, including John Goodman and late James Gandolfini.  The conceit of the story allows for a lot of suspense throughout, as Washington is never sure who he is dealing with. The audience is never left in the dark, as the film has Demon Vision, where we can see things through the eyes of the demonic entity.

I really enjoy Fallen and feel it is a bit underrated. It works effective as a thriller with a solid creepy vibe.

The_Devil_Inside_PosterYears ago, Isabella Rossi called 9/11 claiming to have killed three people. Years later, her daughter is trying to document her story. The Vatican has kept her mother (who was found not guilty on the grounds of insanity) in an Italian mental hospital.

The film presents itself as this serious attempt by a daughter to get to the truth of what happened to her mother. There are all the standard possession tropes as the movie goes along, though it tends to not be all that compelling.

But honestly? The biggest insult to the viewer? The film just stops cold and then tells you to visit a website for more information.  It feels like they were going to try and make this the Blair Witch 2.0 with a viral marketing campaign. But it just annoys and gave me no desire to visit the website.

The Takeover (The Possession, 2012)

the_Possession_PosterSo, Negan is in a failing marriage and trying to hold it all together and simply be a good dad to his two daughters. When his younger daughter finds an old box at a yard sale, they bring it home. They find they cannot open the box at first, but then the young girl manages to get it open.

as time passes, she becomes obsessed with the box, which makes her appear more and more anti-social.  Negan finds the blame being placed on him, and he searches desperately for an answer so he does not lose access to his children.

Really, the Possession would not stand out much among modern possession films, there are creepy digital effects, face morphing and so on. However, one thing it does have that sets it apart is it’s use of judaism.  The box has Hebrew lettering, and it is tied to Jewish mysticism, and the exorcist in the film is a rabbi.  The film also makes the claim of being a true story…but the over the top effects make it sound as likely as the Conjuring films.

But beyond that stuff, the Possession is not that outstanding. If they had used the typical Christian imagery? I probably would have forgotten the film already.