A Wrench In Time (The Terminator, 1984)

The_Terminator_PosterIn 1984, James Cameron was a genre vet, but not quite the guy we think of.  He had no mega-hits…yet. Cameron came up out of the Corman school and made his names with technical and special effects….especially stretching the low budget effects.

His one theatrical film before the Terminator is Piranha II: the Spawning, and then his next film is…

In 1984 a mysterious massive stranger appears in a crackle of lightning in an alley.  He has a singular aim and will.

Elsewhere, another man appears in an alley (less gracefully). Disoriented he asked when he is. He, like the more ominous stranger has a goal…in fact they are both here to locate Sarah Conner, a young woman of immense importance to the future.

Both men are from the future, one where there is a war between man and machine. When the machines realize they are about to lose, they send back a Terminator, a large massive robot covered in human flesh to allow them to infiltrate human encampments and kill a target. The Terminator’s target is the mother of the man who will rally humanity together to defeat the robot oppressors.

Kyle Reese has been sent back to protect young Sarah Conner from the Terminator.

The Terminator is a shockingly good second film, showing that Cameron had a real vision as he made the film.  It is a sci-fi horror film that keeps everything simple.  By the team it ends, we have a perfect circle of time, so it is not confusing or asking you to make any bigger stretch than accepting time travel.

Cameron is as committed to his characters as much as effects and action.  Sarah is believable and sympathetic as an everyman finding herself in an impossible situation and rising to occasion.  Considering the biggest ask is that we believe she falls in love with Reese overnight, and Hamilton and Biehn have enough chemistry to make it work.

Arnold Schwarzenegger had already made a mark as Conan, but this time he has a real menacing charisma that sells the notion that a massive cyborg is walking the city.

The effects remain an outstanding achievement. Sure, you can see the stop motion models and the rubber heads…but they are such well crafted effects, you do not mind and they are downright pleasing to watch.

The Terminator is a film that has withstood the test of time and such an incredibly impressive effort for someone’s second film.

Growing Pains (Damien: The Omen II, 1978)

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!

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