Lucifer, in his true form, has come to Greendale to take Sabrina as his wife.
Madison and Chablis go to Murder House looking for answers about Michael Langdon
Joshua. 2007. Directed by George Ratliff. Screenplay by David Gilbert & Ratliff.
Starring Sam Rockwell, Vera Farmiga, Celia Weston, Dallas Roberts, Michael McKean, Jacob Kogan, Nancy Giles, Linda Larkin, Alex Draper, Stephanie Roth Haberle, Ezra Barnes, Jodie Markell, Rufus Collins, Haviland Morris, & Tom Bloom. ATO Pictures.
Rated 14A. 106 minutes.
The creepy kid sub-genre (if that’s legitimately a thing) in horror is one that’s seen plenty of ripe material. Some of the classics dominate, such as The Omen and the lesser loved but awesome The Good Son featuring young Macaulay Culkin and Elijah Wood. Then there are others which aren’t as great, though still enjoyable, like Children of the Corn. What makes us so worried in general about the killer kids, the little psychopaths, young boys and girls capable of murder, manipulation, and so much more, is the idea of nature v. nurture. With any representation of evil, adult and child alike, it’s a question of whether innocence is real. If it is inherent in human beings automatically and evil becomes engrained in people throughout the course of their lives. Or if there’s no such thing as innocence, and at birth humans are part of a cosmic Russian Roulette, in which children can come out on the opposite shade of that spectrum.
Joshua examines such questions of innocence. Even after the credits start to roll and we’ve watched with dread those final moments, there are no blatant answers. It may seem like everything’s obvious. Although that’s certainly not the case if you look closely. Added to the finale and its ending there are several key moments which call into question what exactly has happened. People can say they’ve got a definitive answer, and they may offer quite a deal of evidence to that point, yet there will always be a hovering air of mystery. Considering these events, when you look back on the film as a whole you start to try piecing together various theories, moving back and forth between possibilities. Ultimately, this is a strength, as Joshua is highly likely to stick in your mind, days after seeing it, possibly longer. And after so much madness you’ll start to question whether evil really is nurtured all the time after all.
Maybe innocence is far too fleeting.
I love the natural feeling of the relationship between Brad and Abby (Sam Rockwell & Vera Farmiga). One of the biggest things about any drama, no matter what sort of genre boundaries it crosses, is that the character need to feel real. I don’t care what sort of story you’re telling, if the characters in your screenplay don’t connect with people emotionally on some level then there’s really no hope for anything else you’re attempting to do. While this movie is absolutely a (psychological)horror-thriller its main structure is an intense family drama. The foundation of which is always going to be real, honest characters. One example is early on when Brad joins Abby in bed – he’s trying to start sex, without being obnoxious, and his wife isn’t really ready yet, but he’s kissing her ass (literally), telling her how gorgeous she is, to the point of saying he loves how her armpits smell.
When the horror-thriller elements star to kick in hard there are obvious comparisons, and maybe homages, to similar films now considered classics. For instance, just Abby’s hair alone and later her pale complexion will have most people thinking of Rosemary’s Baby. As Joshua (Jacob Kogan) further manipulates his parents he becomes reminiscent of an even more actively involved Damien Thorn.
One of the eeriest scenes comes when the dog dies. The way Joshua mimics his father begins to show us how the boy might possibly be a psychopath. We know already there’s something not quite right, but this is a spooky moment. Even Brad starts to get a peek into the personality of his son, and though he soon forgets mostly about it this is a big turning point. As an audience, we’re gradually privy to more of his creepy behaviour that leads us farther and deeper into the boy’s psychopathy.
Rockwell is a fantastic actor. He does well with a variety of characters, and this is no different. The character of Brad is complex. He’s a very loving, understanding husband, and all at once a man with needs, both emotional and physical. Later on, he becomes a sort of vilified father near the end. So as an actor Rockwell has tons with which he can work. He’s easy to relate with watching him deteriorate, and this is probably why it’s all so effective. We feel for him all the way. Alongside him is Farmiga, another awesome talent. She is always watchable, even in movies where there’s nothing too exciting going on. Here, she’s saddled with playing a role similar to the ones played by Mia Farrow and Lee Remick, only this is a much more realistic portrayal of a woman driven to madness by pregnancy and/or motherhood. It isn’t easy to portray an honest character like this, but Farmiga gives us the good and bad of a new mother, one that’s already experienced the exact same thing not even a decade before. Having seen several women go through that new life as a mother, including the rocky beginnings, I find Farmiga’s performance to be extremely on point. And when Joshua further drives his mother into psychological ruin there are some good scenes between Farmiga and Rockwell, where they give us a devastating look at a corroding marriage.
The best scene of all is the last one in the park, after Brad finally snaps. Everything about it is incredibly well executed. Love the score that accompanies the moment, very ominous and psycho-thriller-esque. But just the way Rockwell goes mental, fighting the men around him, it’s so intensely emotional. The camera draws back, panning out and giving us this almost auditorium-like view of the confrontation. Overall, a wonderful sequence.
This is a 4-star film that I’d put up at the top of the pantheon of creepy kid sub-genre. Of course Joshua doesn’t come along with any of the outright bloody horror many of its counterparts boast. Nonetheless, it is horrific. A psychological thriller with enough viciousness to hold the attention of most. There are good performances, however, the writing is what does most of the work. Not every creepy kid flick has much innovative about its story. What Joshua doesn’t attain in its few missteps it gains back in an overall willingness to step outside the usual expectancies of the sub-genre and it makes up by subverting those ideas, giving us something altogether creepy and slightly original. The film avoids cliche at many turns simply due to the fact it opts for a plot that doesn’t dive into the supernatural. Everything is much too real and impressively believable.
Dig in, you’ll find a treat especially if creepy kids get to you. This is one boy I won’t soon forget.
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.
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.
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 AHEAD: This 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Warning: Ahead 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.
Season 1, Episode 2: “Second Death”
Directed by Ernest R. Dickerson
Written by Mark Kruger
* For a review of the first episode, “The Beast Rises” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Deliverer” – click here
After an uneven pilot episode, A&E’s Glen Mazzarra-run Damien glides into its next chapter.
Damien Thorn (Bradley James) is still reeling from recent revelations, as well as the death of his close friend. In other corners of the world, an exorcism of sorts is being performed by Sister Greta Fraueva (Robin Weigert). She prays over the body of a young man lacerated from head to toe. The ceremony involves him being lowered into a grave, then later pulled out. By all accounts, she saves him, as the boy comes to asking for his mother. The forces of darkness are clearly heavy. Will Sister Greta come to play a larger part in Damien’s life? Is she a counterpart to the deviously eerie Ann Rutledge (Barbara Hershey)?
The hounds of Hell are kicking around everywhere. This time, in Greta’s apartment. Or at least she sees it, anyways. Exciting to see Weigert in this role. She is an amazing talent who often ends up with less than stellar supporting roles, aside from her excellent turn on Deadwood. Her nun character will slowly converge with the life of Damien.
Speaking of the Antichrist, he’s busy highlighting Bible quotes, searching out pictures that he’s taken and relating them to those passages describing his destiny, supposedly. In between all that his memories keep flashing: “It‘s all for you, Damien.” His photography partner Amani Golkar (Omid Abtahi) chastises him for not going to Kelly’s funeral; Damien blames himself for what happened, but Amani reassures him it isn’t, and there is a need for closure.
A clandestine meeting in a church vaguely discusses the Antichrist, confirming he’s there in the city of New York. The ceremonial dagger from the first episode, one of the “seven daggers of Megiddo” (more original The Omen references), and the task is set: “Strike where the heart should be,” says the priest to the mysterious man on the other side of the confessional. At the same time, the priest dies out of nowhere, sudden and violent. Evil lurks; everywhere.
At Kelly’s funeral, Damien spies the mysterious confessional booth man. More than that, he flashes back to memories of his childhood, the fit before going into a church. Everything is coming loose inside Damien now, he’ll soon begin to figure it all out. Inside the church walls his skin sweats profusely, the sight of the stained glass makes him short of breath. More and more, clips of the original film make their way in, showing us those old memories curling up around his brain, taking hold once more. A ways behind him, Ann sits watching in pleasure, as he struggles not to explode from the evil bursting inside. Fun to see a grown man going through this, as opposed to a child. He doesn’t understand it, but there’s more crisis as an adult, not understanding what’s happening. Very creepy.
Amani (re: Damien): “It‘s like weird stuff happens all the time, but never a scratch.”
Struggling in the city, Damien wants out. He asks Paula Sciarra (Sandrine Holt) if there are any jobs happening. She replies by handing over a massive cheque, made out by none other than Ann, who’s buying up all sorts of his photographs. Worst of all, though, Paula’s letting her two photographers go. Surely this won’t sit well with Damien, after all that’s been going on.
A conversation between Damien and a priest shows the former is already lacking faith. Being a war photographer, he’s seen some shit. Now, he’s discovering his fate as the Antichrist, and this undoubtedly shakes his faith further. He challenges the priest’s notion of faith in the face of atrocities such as “rape being used as a political weapon“, going off a bit hard in front of everyone at the reception: “I‘m sorry, father, that‘s not good enough. It‘s a cruel joke. And if God‘s the one telling it then he‘s a sadistic prick.”
Again, I love that Damien is a war photographer who sees the worst of humanity. His faith is challenged as it is, let alone being the son of Satan. This character detail of traveling to war torn areas aids the overall story and his development.
Then, while taking some photos, and followed by the mysterious confessional assassin, Damien is confronted by an odd homeless man who prophecies: “The darkness is coming.” He continues to see strange figures in the streets, including a little girl with a sewn up eye who writes 666 on the fog in her window, as Damien stares up at her terrified. Such an unnerving moment. Then out of the shadows comes the assassin. He swipes at Damien, but misses. Luckily the hounds of Hell are there to help. A cabbie gets run from the road after one appears from nowhere. The car his the assassin, killing him, and saving Damien. And the dagger slips into the sewer of New York City.
In Kelly’s notebook, her sister Simone (Megalyn E.K.) and Amani discover notes on Damien, Megiddo, the Apocalypse, and more. Scary find for them, as it looks almost like the ramblings of a madwoman. But they’ll soon find out.
So now the cops are poking around Damien, his involvement with the dead confessional assassin. The police are slightly suspicious about the couple accidents he’s been near lately. If they only knew. For now, Ann to the rescue; she poses as his attorney to get him out of there. Damien is just as surprised as the cop. Ann wants to know more about the knife, which Damien calls an “artifact“, and she reveals: “I‘ve been watching you.” She further promises all the answers “in time“, if he can be that patient. And then she drops the bombshell of his adoption in Rome, plus his true identity, or at least part of it.
Ann: “You want answers? Come with me”
The cops discover a tattoo on the dead man. It signifies an old organization, a sort of cult. Ahhh, intrigue!
With Damien in tow, Ann divulges her worry for him. She also has a dagger of Megiddo, which she shows him to verify whether the assassin had one. Further, we get more flashbacks to the original film, as Gregory Peck tries to kill the Antichrist boy. Those memories seep into Damien, too. He remembers now. Everything slowly comes back with time. Leading him downstairs, Ann reveals the artifacts of his childhood – a red tricycle, the one used to send mommy on her fateful fall, among other items. A shrine to the Antichrist. “Welcome home, Damien,” says Ann in a final eerie line.
Excited for more. This episode brought things together better and built well off the first. Next up is “The Deliverer”, so stay tuned with me until next week, fellow fans!
Season 1, Episode 1: “The Beast Rises”
Directed by Shekhar Kapur
Written by Glen Mazzara
* For a review of the following episode, “Second Death” – click here
A new series from former The Walking Dead showrunner Glen Mazzara begins! No doubt it was a long time coming, after all the revival series talk lately and films being turned into tv shows all around us. Mazzara does his best to transfer The Omen in all its horror glory onto the small screen, which is no easy task. Let’s see how he does.
The premiere starts out with Damien Thorn (Bradley James) heading inside an old church, moving towards the large crucifix on the altar. Candles blow out, either by wind or by him. “What do you want from me?” he asks Jesus on the cross – “What‘d I ever do to you?” A nice opener, with Damien tossing rosary beads at Christ.
Flash to three days earlier in Damascus. Damien is a photographer working in Syria currently, alongside his friend Amani Golkar (Omid Abtahi). Taking shots among the crowd, Damien witneses an armed patrol come rush out apparent illegals, who are really suspected of harbouring terrorists. He too is pushed out of the way. Then he runs into Kelly Baptiste (Tiffany Hines) also in the area. They end up having to get clear once things start to go haywire. When Damien tries to help a few people in the street, an old woman he saw earlier grabs him and recounts those oh-so-infamous words: “Damien, I love you – it‘s all for you.” We get actual flashes back to the Gregory Peck-starring classic, as the young caretaker hangs herself for little Damien. Now they’re like his flashbacks, running through his head.
This event is the catalyst for Mazzara’s series. It’s as if Damien is determined now after briefly viewing his own past, moments lost to him over the years.
Amani and Damien end up separated from Kelly, unfortunately they further end up in the hands of the authorities. Back in New York, they find themselves “banned from Syria”, which is wild. And Damien is now hooked on discovering those secrets of his past. He calls Kelly, who heard and saw what happened with the old woman. Problem is Kelly has a sore spot with Damien re: their past relationship. I like how the concept is that Damien’s forgotten or repressed his heritage, whatever the case may be, now those bits and pieces are starting to slip through the cracks. And he’s got a life, a whole existence aside from that. This being Antichrist thing sure will cramp those things. Crush them, maybe.
Damien goes to see an old buddy, likely from military academy (if that’s canon here), named Cray Marquand (Cody Ray Thompson) – he works for the International Monetary Fund, head in fact, so the old buddies Damien has kicking around certainly have high connections; or they’re at the top of the food chain.
Even further, up pops Ann Rutledge (eternally talented babe Barbara Hershey). She knows all about Damien. “The past is like a noose around our necks,” Ann says eerily: “Wouldn‘t you say?” She describes herself as in the “protection business“, whose job description is looking after “special interests” and such. Ominous, dare I say?
When Kelly meets up with Damien, she reveals the old woman in Syria spoke to him in Latin about a “beloved son” and a connection to John the Baptist/a voice from the sky. There’s a further connection to Christ, his supposed 30th birthday. Damien reveals “visions” that are essentially repressed memories, that they’re coming back to him; the party at his house where the nanny committed suicide, again. The words of the nanny echoed through time to set Damien on a course to discover his true self again.
Damien and Amani go about trying to find pictures of the old woman, though, the latter does not know the extent of why his boss/friend is so keen on finding her. Kelly comes to help later. She and Damien go see a professor in relation to Damien, his father, who sought out a “biblical scholar” and the professor tells him of Mr. Thorn’s obsession with finding out about Satan, and so on. Lots of “end of days” type stuff from the aging professor, which Damien doesn’t exactly buy it. “The devil has many names,” says the professor. The number 666 comes up and makes Damien look terribly uneasy. So what about the birthmark? Does he have it, or did it disappear like so many of ours?
Great atmosphere and mood so far. The tone of the show isn’t all the dark yet, but there’s a foreboding aspect, with shadowy cinematography, and a wonderfully creepy score so far. Watching the priest in his home attacked by the dogs is a brutal moment, which builds up perfectly with the score behind it. A little dose of blood, too. Dig it.
A call to Kelly informs her and Damien of what happened to the priest. Now Damien’s worries deepen. He casts her out, fairly emotionless. Their relationship is rocky as is, now he makes it worse. But perhaps it’s because of his lingering emotions, he may not want to bring anything worse on her. Especially if all this Antichrist business is true. Unfortunately, Damien doesn’t realize how damn true just yet.
When Kelly gets her car stuck, strange things begin happening. A river of mud starts to suck her into the earth, car and all. A pit of quicksand forms in the mud and the message is clear, as Damien tries to save her: she isn’t safe anywhere. The pit sucks her under, or something in it does, anyways. Cut to the daytime, as Kelly’s body is dragged from the mud. Her sister Simone (Megalyn E.K.) rushes to the scene where she at first gets mad with Damien, an already negative presence in her mind. Then they begin to bond a little. “She’s in a better place,” Simone says to Damien: “This can‘t be all we have. I really need to believe that right now. Death isn‘t the end.” All to the man who may have recently discovered his claim to the title Antichrist. Yikes.
In the meantime, in the world of the Holy Scripture there are forces gathering in preparing for the Antichrist. Word of Damien being in Damascus has spread, as well as the fact the priest who recently died had met with Damien. More callbacks to the original film here; daggers and such.
Cut to Damien stumbling into the church from our opening. He looks haggard, worn out, sickly even. He kneels before the altar and the statue of Christ crucified. And then, as if screaming out too much, the statue crumbles. The head of Christ lays at Damien’s feet. Too much, Mazzara? Plus, more flashbacks directly to the original film; edited in clips. Not digging that aspect, I must say.
Outside the church, Damien encounters the old Syrian woman. She grabs a handful of hair from his head. Will this reveal the birthmark? Yes?
Too much calling back to the original here, as Damien looks at old pictures of his – the old woman from Syria is glaringly obvious in many of them, looking sinister in windows and huts and street corners behind even old family photos of Mr. Thorn and the family.
I love that the birthmark is there and all. But how’d he not notice it for so long? Too many questions. How did he NEVER see that creepy old woman in the photo? Sure, it might just seem out of place before and now it’s relevant, but still – this entire finale reeks of being jammed in, as if they wanted Mazzara to give more connection with the first movie. Not digging that one bit.
I’ll give the series more than just its premiere before judging too heavily. There were bits I really liked, then others that were forced, contrived, and too conveniently placed in there to be organic. Hopefully it gets better with the second episode “Second Death” – show me what you’re made of Mazzara! Build on this one.
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.
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.
After 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.
Rarely 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.
Possibly 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.
The 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.