From The Omen

FatherSonHolyGore’s Exclusive Interview with Bradley James and Glen Mazzara from DAMIEN

I was lucky enough to have been invited by FOX to attend a screening of Damien’s Season 1 finale, “Ave Satani” – sadly, I couldn’t make it to Los Angeles. However, their publicity department sent me a personal finale screener. Incredibly impressed, I got to watch the episode several days before its premiere. Lucky me, right?
Well I only got luckier. Later I received another bit of correspondence asking if any of us critics who were given the screener might want to conduct an interview, either with Executive Producer Glen Mazzara or any of the actors. Naturally, I jumped at the chance to interview Glen specifically. From The Shield (on the top of my list for Best Series Ever; wrote many of my favourite episodes like “The Spread”, “Strays”, & “On Tilt”) onward everything he’s involved in I usually try and seek out. So then a conference call was set. Another unexpected turn; I figured the interview would likely be via e-mail.
And the hits just kept on coming: not only would I get the chance to ask Glen questions, but star of the show Bradley James was also slated to hop on the line with us. Anybody who doesn’t already know Bradley will certainly know him after Damien. He’s already got a built in fan club, though. As if women fawning over him weren’t enough, there’s the fact he played a pre-King Arthur Arthur on BBC One’s The Adventures of Merlin, he turned up in an episode of Homeland, as well as a handful of iZombie episodes.

Seriously, though – I get to talk with these guys?
I’ve never done any interviews for this site before. But my involvement on social media, coupled with the recaps and reviews I do weekly by episode, got me on the line with these two for almost an hour (half hour each). Between myself and a couple other media outlets, we asked Glen and Bradley some questions. Here’s some of their answers.

SPOILER ALERT: This article contains minor and major spoilers in regards to the May 9th season finale of A&E’s Damien. The areas which contain spoilers have further been marked as such.


Glen Mazzara
Mazzara
Immediately, things turned to Season 2, as we’d all seen the finale that day. Glen told us he’s already mapped it out. For those of us curious how the show is put together, you can see Mazzara likes to think ahead. Not only that, he has specific episodes and ideas ready in terms of the the cast and characters, of whom he speaks highly. He made clear it’s enjoyable working with and writing for them. He told us there’s no mindset about not getting renewed either; he’s operating as if they’re full steam ahead. A confident approach as showrunner.
I asked Glen about the initial catalyst for why he felt Damien, as a series, was worth exploring. He told me he wanted to follow Damien as an Antichrist and to take that seriously. As in, Jesus is fully God and fully human, so the Antichrist should be fully human and fully devil. He hoped to explore the humanity of this situation. He likes the struggle of guessing what’s really going on. Mazzara says good horror makes us question: what is real and what is supernatural? It keeps you uncomfortable. Not only that, the human drama of Damien’s situation inflicts itself upon the other characters, which helps fill out the story and other arcs.
Mazzara first approached this series thinking of Jesus Christ – an unknown carpenter in a little backwater town in Galilee. How does that person start such a massive movement and change the world over two thousand years? He began powerless. In a contemporary version of such an ascent Mazzara knew people would expect an evil senator or similar character archetype. But he took aim at the meaning of religion with Damien as a young war photographer, not just some corrupt type of character that would make moves using the power of the Antichrist. Because where’s the fun in that? It wouldn’t provide much depth or development. First and foremost, Mazzara tried a completely different angle. Being raised Catholic and understanding the religion gave Mazzara his material. For him, the show is equal parts horror and religion. He considers his take not a subjective, judgemental view of religious faith, but rather an examination of that faith, what it means to people, and in turn how the opposite of faith in God (i.e. faith in Satan) would operate with that same devotion. And all through a wonderfully horrific lens.
It’s hard for a messiah to get people to die for them,” Mazzara says. Also a line he hopes to toss in somewhere throughout Season 2.
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Being a huge Barbara Hershey fan (all started due to her powerful performance in 1982’s The Entity), I asked Glen if we could look forward to more of her cutting and oddly masochistic behaviour, or at least an explanation (note: for those who don’t remember Ann cut a fresh 666 into her scarred inner thigh during Episode 3 “The Deliverer”). Being the massive horror fan I am, Mazzara is likely a bigger one. This moment comes from 666 on the inner thigh of the priest from the original film, which he revealed to Gregory Peck’s character before dying. Mazzara found it fun to consider possibly the priest was involved in the larger group watching Damien, somehow. Further than that, it ties into the Book of Revelations which states “his followers will be marked” also with the Number of the Beast. So Mazarra tied Ann into that larger conspiracy making her part of that secretive group watching over Damien, suggesting there’s an overarching connection to many of them with this branding. Even further, this also shows the devotion of Ann in a sick, twisted way to really elevate how dedicated to Damien, or better yet whoever The Antichrist would’ve been. The relationship between Ann & Damien, ultimately, is what Mazzara calls “the wicked heart of the show.”
“No one knows exactly how this is gonna come around,” Mazzara tells us re: the coming of the Antichrist. Ann feels there is a progression, but doesn’t know for sure. She’s there to nurture Damien’s potential. Mazzara claims she wants to be “first amongst his worshippers.” Ann is the Mother Mary figure: she loves Damien as a son, but knows he “belongs to history, he belongs to the world.”
Mazzara feels the show “did a good job” on the front of female characters, ones with actual developed stories affecting the plot/story. And that’s true: we start off with Kelly, she’s essentially the catalyst then for Damien really searching his soul, and of course Simone then becomes involved, then there’s Ann, Veronica, and you can’t forget Sister Greta (played by the ever wonderful Robin Weigert). As Mazzara mentions, a “large amount of story [is] driven by those women.” SPOILER AHEADThis last sentence & following paragraph reveals several fairly major spoilers from the May 9th finale. Please skip ahead before you watch. Even in the finale, John Lyons (Scott Wilson) gets outplayed by Ann, who is a better player in the game than he is, and gets the last laugh, so to speak.

We also discussed further female character strengths, as well as religious connections. During “Ave Satani”, Simone washes Damien’s feet – right in the middle of a manhunt for him. She is a “religious player in this story,” explained Mazzara. She is also a bit of a Christ figure, as well. She is killed, revived, and she doesn’t have any evil side; a “force of good,” Mazzara calls her. In contrast to her, there’s lots of evil in the finale – suicide cops in the opening, nun execution before a mass grave, then two people get buried alive. Simone represents that incredibly opposite good side. She stepped forward to take the bullet for Damien in the end and effectively illustrates her pinnacle of goodness.
Mazzara believes that above all else Simone’s character is about “gaining her voice.” Everyone’s telling her to shut up, essentially. Even in the finale she finds insects flying out of her mouth, choking her. What’s most interesting is that the series starts out with most people expecting Simone to be a disposable character. Only along the line she becomes integral to Damien’s journey.
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Warning: Ahead are some significant spoilers concerning the finale, “Ave Satani”, so if you’ve yet to see it please don’t read these next bits, or else be spoiled!
Mazzara confirms that Detective Shay has officially converted. He is now a believer, for better or worse, in the Antichrist after the finale’s events.
In addition, the last shot holds a great significance for the show’s DNA. Mazzara says that the last scene had been sketched out before they even sold the show. He knew at the end of the season Damien had to enter a “Faustian bargain”. Season 1 is Damien coming around, at the end is him essentially “sacrificing himself to commit evil”. Mazzara calls the season structure serpentine, in that it brings you back to the old film throughout the course of the season until in the finale’s final moment we are literally thrust back into 1976’s The Omen.


Bradley James
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When asked how he manages to get himself into the dark space required for playing the character of Damien, we receive an honest answer: “I’m maybe not quite as dark and twisted as [certain] scenes would suggest.” However, he went on to tell us that many of the tougher scenes were a “cathartic experience”, which he got through using moments in his own life that he related to Damien’s own struggles. Mostly, he credits the crew for making him feel safe in their atmosphere, so much that he felt very comfortable getting into the skin of the character.
I asked Bradley specifically what the most interesting part about Damien as a character was for him. He said the world weariness of Damien intrigued him, as “a 30-year-old man carrying the pain of someone much older” who has seen so much yet manages to still carry on as a functional human being.
Bradley tells us he didn’t know the full arc of the Damien Thorn character. It wasn’t until shooting Episode 7 or 8 when he read the scripts, and afterwards asked Glen to tell him the “endgame.” Before that, not knowing allowed him “fresh eyes” to tackle the character up until the point where Mazzara laid out his plans.
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Then, I ask a troubling question: who is his favourite actor to play off this season?
Most importantly, Bradley loves variety. He tells us how some actors are set in their way before even coming to the scene that day. Therefore, they’re not “alive in the scene at that moment.” In contrast, he went on to say everybody here provided a great atmosphere for a conduit towards their respective chemistry in various scenes. Being amongst a diverse cast, Bradley acknowledges each actor was different, making for good energy and even better scenes.
Morever, Bradley tells us he and Omid Abtahi (who plays Amani) are great friends now after shooting the show together. This helped the natural relationship between Damien and Amani onscreen, as they got closer offscreen.
He also made sure to add he loves Barbara’s presence as Ann Rutledge. He “felt very respected in [his] process.” Bradley also says there existed a mutual appreciation for and understanding of one another. Only too evident in the final product; their onscreen chemistry is undeniable.
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Regarding particular scenes throughout the series, the grave burial/tree wrapping scene in Episode 9 (“The Devil You Know“) was very physical according to Bradley. Shot in Canada, in the woods at 3am, he claims he didn’t “have to work for” his uncomfortable attitude for the scene, as nature provided that. Even worse, the mosquitoes were “relentless” and so he continually “bathed in bugspray.” As a Canadian, from the farthest East Coast, I know the pain. But he also tells us that drama school “hammer[ed] it into [him] to find the truth.” So aside from the physicality of certain scenes, he dug deep into the well of human emotion to make a supernatural story feel more rooted in reality. He adds Glen also wrote very honestly. He says their fearless leader has a “warped mind”, but is someone truthful that can likewise find it in these characters.

WarningAhead is one final (minor) spoiler pertaining to the season finale, “Ave Satani”, so please do not read this last paragraph before watching.
Of course someone had to ask about the original 1976 film. Bradley tells us he rewatched The Omen at the start of production. Later, they all had to look at it again for the final scene in Episode 10, mainly for technical reasons; to make sure the shot was framed right and looking proper. That look is one of “inner peace,” says Bradley, as Damien has finally come to a realization in the season finale. Evil, but a realization nonetheless.


It was a pleasure to interview these two, an honour really. The series became much better as the episodes wore on, so hopefully Mazzara gets a Season 2 to give us more Antichrist fun, and more of Bradley James’ excellent talent.

Damien – Season 1, Episode 5: “Seven Curses”

A&E’s Damien
Season 1, Episode 5: “Seven Curses”
Directed by Mikael Salomon
Written by K.C. Perry

* For a review of the previous episode, “The Number of a Man” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Temptress” – click here
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On we spin into the abyss, right alongside Damien Thorn (Bradley James).
This episode begins in the darkened halls of a basement; a hospital, in fact. A little girl shows up to proclaim that the “beast” is on its way. Foreboding, definitely.
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Speaking of Damien, he’s off to the hospital meeting with a doctor who specializes in PTSD amongst veterans. He sits and waits for seems like forever. Then it’s as if he’d never even walked in, completely ignored by the woman at the front desk. Damien runs into the mother of the boy he saved on the subway platform. He’s brought up to see her husband, Alex (Jose Pablo Cantillo), who’s happy to meet the man who saved his son. Damien even offers to take pictures of his struggle, what he’s dealing with post-service in the military, and the couple agrees. It’s amazing to see the humanity of Damien, as well as is atheism. Amazing lead character.
Afterwards, as he takes pictures of Alex in water therapy, Damien almost sees the poor guy drown. As an entity lurks just below the surface. It’d be tough if the darkness in Damien were to claim someone such as Alex, whose life has already been covered in darkness. When Alex reveals he’s “ending” his life, that it’s the best option for everyone in his family, it really shocks Damien to his core. Even more than that Alex wants his suicide photographed, he wants the truth of the veterans like him told, in raw, graphic nature. But how can someone agree to photograph that? It would be devastating. Yet Alex asks: “Isnt that what you do? Bear witness?”

 


Simone Baptiste (Megalyn E.K.) is busy trying to connect Damien to the death of her sister. All the while, Amani (Omid Abtahi) is convincing her otherwise. He lets slip the fact the old woman was in a ton of pictures, apparently “photoshopped” by Damien. Not the case, though, and Simone knows it. She’s sly. Perhaps her intuition may land her in a bad place, instead of in one of power. Especially if she gets too close to the truth.
Then there’s Ann Rutledge (Barbara Hershey). She’s looking concerned, asking questions about her motherhood, wondering if she “kept all the wolves at bay” and so on. This whole thing with Damien is tearing her up inside.
At the hospital, Damien’s trying to find Alex, who evades him at almost every turn. He even sees the vision of a little girl in the hallway, the one with a messed up. In the dark halls of the lower levels, Damien searches for Alex. Like something out of Jacob’s Ladder we’re plunged into the very heart of madness. Hanging prosthetic limbs, hospital attendants dealing drugs, creepy whispered voices in the background. Slowly, Damien follows Alex father down the rabbit hole.
Everywhere he goes things are strange, otherworldly. He cannot find solid footing. Each room is another strange nightmare. What an amazing sequence, both in writing and in execution, from editing to makeup effects to overall direction. Perfect, and terrifyingly upsetting, unnerving, all of it. Certainly gets to Damien, as well.

 


Ann makes a call: “I need two men, now. I have someone who needs a bit of housekeeping. No, no, not that. Yes, its him. Dont hurt him; too much.” An extremely ominous conversation indeed, and the fact Ann has tears in her eyes is also creepy.
Cut to Sister Greta Fraueva (Robin Weigert). She’s trying to make off with one of the Seven Daggers of Megiddo, to leave for New York and take care of the beast. Although, the patriarchy wouldn’t want that now, would they? A woman running off and taking care of church business. The mystery surrounding her character is hugely interesting. She has no time for the male-run church, either. Only as far as she needs to pretend. Which is fucking awesome.

 


Getting closer to some kind of truth, Simone finds the pictures at Damien’s place. At the same time he’s trying to work his way out of the hospital. He calls her right as she’s standing in his place, looking through the pictures. Worst time for her to be there – the two men Ann called for show up. They trash the place and toss everything, wrecking lights and furniture, everything. Luckily, they don’t find Simone.
But poor Amani, he’s still hanging around Ann’s protege, Veronica (Melanie Scrofano). When is his number due to be punched?
Damien goes back to see Alex. The injured vet is ready to take the drugs, to fade away. And Damien is ready to take the photographs of his suicide. An emotional, devastating moment here. What a scene. Both men struggle to do what it is they need to do; Alex with the needle, Damien shaking behind his camera.

 


Later on, Damien heads to the house where he lived years ago as a boy. The picture of his family still hangs looming large. He has a look around the old estate. Sits in the old red convertible in the garage. And he has his own plans for suicide. He prepares the garage, taping up the cracks in the door. He readies himself to inject drugs into his veins. The carbon monoxide is flowing.
Except something will not allow it. The hounds of Hell arrive, an entity peels away the duct tape from the door’s cracks. The Beast cannot die. He will not. Eventually, the dogs drag him free of the smoke, and he ends up waking to the night air. Not yet, Damien. Satan hasn’t gotten all he needs out of you.
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Next episode promises to be more demonic fun. This was a great one, very powerful, full of weight, and trippy, too. Next up is “Temptress” – stay with me, fellow fans!

The Omen: Religion, Creepy Kids, and Gregory Peck

The Omen. 1976. Directed by Richard Donner. Screenplay by David Seltzer.
Starring Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner, Billie Whitelaw, Harvey Stephens, Patrick Troughton, Martin Benson, Robert Rietty, and Tommy Duggan.
Twentieth Century Fox/Mace Neufeld Productions.
Rated R. 111 minutes.
Horror/Mystery

★★★★★
theomen When it comes to supernatural horror I tend to be at a crossroads most of the time. There are good and bad films in any sub-genre of any major genre, that’s simply a no-brainer. My problem is that anything with ghosts, spirits, demons (et cetera) can some times get lost in itself. It’s hard to tell where the line begins and ends with this sort of stuff. For me, anyways. That being said, there are plenty of supernatural horrors I think are great. I just feel I may have a bias against them, who knows.
None of that matters where The Omen is concerned. Ever since the first time I remember seeing the movie, on television late at night when I was but a young lad, it always stuck in my mind. Several of the scenes have never left me (think: Damien does not feel good about going to church). Then the older I get – writing this the day after my 30th birthday – the more frequently I come back to it, the trilogy in general. It’s solid horror filmmaking, classic really. From the fine acting of Gregory Peck and Lee Remick to the masterfully suspenseful screenplay by David Seltzer. Every last portion of The Omen is a horrific treat. There’s a true existential dread in this movie, wrapped up in religion and the belief in God/Satan. Richard Donner has made a couple excellent films, this certainly one of them, and here he proves his weight in tension with one of the best supernatural horror movies ever made.
OriginalDamienMeetsBaylockAfter Katherine Thorn (Lee Remick) loses a son during birth, Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) accepts another boy born at the same time whose mother perished. Arranged by a priest at the hospital, Katherine is none the wiser.
However, a few years down the road once the boy – Damien (Harvey Stephens) – begins to grow up, strange events start to happen. After Robert is appointed U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain, a young woman employed at their new home kills herself in front of Damien and guests at his birthday. More and more everything gets worse. Damien becomes ill and angry when approaching a church, animals at the zoo go mad and start to attack when he comes near. Alone with the secret of where Damien came from, he soon begins to wonder if his wife is in danger. Even worse he questions who – or what – exactly Damien is, and if there is any way to stop what comes next.
Is Damien the Antichrist? Unfortunately for the Thorns this realization may have come far too late.
omen1Rarely are there scenes as creepy as some in The Omen. The first majorly unsettling moment comes after a young housekeeper locks eyes with a hulking Rottweiler, after which she proceeds to commit suicide by hanging herself from a window in the house – all during Damien’s birthday party, a ton of kids looking on.
Look at me Damien – it’s all for you!
Everybody is horrified, and rightfully so. There’s a moment of absolute silence directly afterwards, then finally people start to scatter. Even creepier is how little Damien and the aforementioned Rottweiler then see one another, as the kid waves strangely to the dog. You know, so quickly there’s something absolutely weird happening.
But it’s the more subtle, down played scenes – such as the first meeting between Robert Thorn (Peck) and Roman Catholic priest Father Brennan (Troughton) – where some truly unnerving horror is at play. This scene in particular, the way Brennan blurts out “His mother was a jackal” right as the security guards enter, likely only the audience actually hearing him… I find it all very spooky. The screenplay peppers in more subtle pieces with the outright scary moments to make it an even feel. Best of all, Donner works incredibly well with the suspense and tension of the story in order to make almost every single scene drip with fear. There are rarely any moments of rest between all the tense sections, which sets us up for a tragic existential horror movie.
The big horror moments are intense. From the early suicide of the young woman hanging herself, to the priest being impaled with a falling rod off the church, to Katherine’s nail biting fall. This film could’ve easily gone with all very low key stuff, focusing wholly on the mysterious aspects of the screenplay. Instead, Donner opts to give us lots of that style, as well as piling on enough creepy horror for any fan of the genre.
OriginalDeadBrennanPossibly my favourite part of The Omen is all its fine acting. Can you really ask for a better actor than Gregory Peck to put in a mid-1970s horror film? I love the fact he’s in this because there is a sort of class which comes along with him. He plays the role of Robert Thorn well, a calm and cool sort of fellow who ends up in the most gut wrenching type of situation with the Antichrist for a child. Watching him slowly push on through the mad journey of discovery that is his search for Damien’s true identity, it is a sigh, a real experience.
Furthermore, there’s also Lee Remick, Billie Whitelaw and David Warner. They’re each pretty damn great respectively. Remick has a tough role to play because it’s hard, even knowing Damien is at least slightly evil, to make us care about a mother who hates her child; she does it greatly and I think her chemistry with Peck is good, as well. Warner doesn’t have a lot to do, but pulls his weight with a minor performance. Whitelaw, though, she is one creepy customer! I thought her performance was also bang on. Even from the initial moments we see her character onscreen, the unsettling fog surrounding her is always there. So then as the scenes pass she becomes more terrifying. Without her the role might have came out hollow, instead she instills lots of fear every time she shows up.
OriginalRobertStabDamienThe Omen is easily a 5 star horror film. There is a lot of human drama within such a supernatural story, yet still all its horror is so much of the strength this film has in lasting power. With acting talents such as Gregory Peck and Lee Remick at the helm, there’s no way such a creepy and utterly terrifying story could go wrong. You’ll find a good few moments of terror (think: decapitation with plate glass), plus a ton of quality filmmaking and performances.
This is perfect for any time of year, but no doubt it’s a juggernaut in the Halloween season horror movie marathon list of choices.