October 31, 2010

The Omen (2006 Remake)


 
Finally, FINALLY I’m done with the Omen series!!!

This remake closely follows the original Omen’s script, which means it still has the same gaping plot holes. (To refresh your memory on my thoughts about the original Omen, click here.) That said, out of all five movies in the series, this is the one I would most willingly watch. The remake is chock full of good actors, even if their hearts are not really in their roles. The moviemakers succeeded in making the Rottweilers scarier, though the dogs still wait for the script’s command before attacking. As you can see, I’m tacking on a lot of qualifiers because even the good bits are overshadowed by problems.

Plot Summary

Same as the original--Robert Thorn (Liev Schreiber) secretly adopts a baby boy after his son dies during childbirth. Thorn and his wife Kate (Julia Stiles) live happily in England with their son, Damien (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick), until people they know start dying mysteriously. Rottweilers magically materialize. Thorn does some research on Damien's origins, and what he discovers horrifies him.

Nutrition Facts

Vitamin B-Acting: 20%

Let’s take a look at our new Damien, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick. I will concede that the kid is a better actor than Harvey Stephens. I particularly liked the more intimate scenes between Davey-Fitzpatrick and Julia Stiles. He pulled off the awkward creepiness pretty well in those scenes. However, his character still comes across as a homicidal jerk. Look, if you are going to insist that the Antichrist will rise out of politics, you’d better make it possible for your audience to imagine the kid going into politics rather than straight to jail or a mental hospital. 

"Don't mind us. We're just trying to inject some life into this series."
Julia Stiles and Liev Schreiber put in decent performances, though they don’t seem deeply engaged in their roles. This is true for most of the cast, which gives the movie a flat feel overall. Anyway, the only other remark I have is that Schreiber often bears a weird resemblance to an older Shia LaBeouf or Forrest Gump throughout the movie, thanks to his haircut and the lighting.

Well, we can be glad Schreiber didn't look this dorky instead.
Then we have what I call “the Harry Potter contingent”:

Michael Gambon as Bugenhagen, AKA Albus Dumbledore
David Thewlis as photographer Keith Jennings, AKA Remus Lupin
The last two notables are Pete Postlethwaite, as the doomed Father Brennan, and Mia Farrow as Mrs. Baylock. Postlethwaite gives an understated performance, and thus is more believable than his predecessor in the original movie. Still, there wasn’t much he could do to improve the material he had to work with.

Mia Farrow’s Mrs. Baylock passes for normal better than her Omen 1976 version. However, Farrow’s appearance in this movie does invite unfortunate comparisons with Rosemary’s Baby, a far superior Antichrist movie. Rosemary’s Baby understood the importance of subtlety and plot logic, unlike the makers of the Omen. Mia, you should have just stuck with Rosemary’s Baby.

Vitamin B-SFX: 70%

Although the cinematography is more sophisticated than in the original Omen, the remake suffers from overdone “artistic” touches. Some of the touches could have enhanced the movie’s atmosphere quite well, had they been a thousand times more understated.

"Pardon, signore--symbolism? What symbolism?"
I’ll use the movie’s treatment of Julia Stiles as an example of overdone symbolism. If you watch the movie, you’ll quickly notice the prevalence of red around Stiles. It appears again and again…and again, even in ways that don’t add any suspense or creepiness to the scene.

Let’s take a closer look at one particular scene—the one in which Damien knocks his mother off a third-floor landing. First it starts with Mrs. Baylock feeding Damien strawberries, so Damien has a blood red stain around his mouth. Then he gets on his scooter, which has blood red wheels. The camera kindly gives us several close-ups of these unholy wheels. The unsuspecting Julia Stiles is watering some hanging planters that house blood red flowers. Her water sprayer is blood red. Surprisingly, her high heels aren’t blood red. Damien rams his scooter into her, she falls over the banister, and as she clings to the wooden paneling for dear life, blood red petals poetically drift over her.

Death by excessive symbolism--what a way to go.
Ah, but the movie doesn’t let Julia Stiles off the hook there. She has a number of nightmare sequences in which various demons from Hell drift in and out of an ethereal bathroom.

"Hey, baby, wanna see my pitchfork?"
We only get secondary flashes of these images. This is a perfect example of a touch that could have been quite effective if the filmmakers hadn’t blown it. They piled on the images one after the other, thus resulting in a corny “haunted house” feel to the sequences.

One last gripe—purple captioning. Remember how the sound effect captioning from Wraiths of Roanoke always included the word “ominous”? There’s a similar problem with the captioning for the Omen remake’s theme music. I quickly grew irritated with the following captions, which appeared ad nauseam:

“Deep eerie growl”
“Quiet foreboding theme plays”
“Low ominous tones playing”
“Eerie screeching in distance”
“Quiet suspenseful theme”
My personal favorite: “Eerie tones and rhythms playing”

Besides the fact that it’s kind of insulting to be told how we should interpret a particular sound, there are just too many adjectives in those captions. Imagine if the “Latin choir singing” caption from the original Omen had constantly appeared as “Evil satanic choir sings hellishly.” Please, captioners, just one adjective per sound effect, if you must have any! 

Vitamin Fun: 60% 

Decent acting and a better handling of certain scenes makes this one of the more bearable Omen films to watch. The goofier elements I’ve discussed also make this movie good for mockery as well. 

Sugar: 0%

Plot Fiber: 0% 

Due to the remake’s slavish copying of the original, it’s only fair to give it the same plot fiber rating that I gave to the original. 

Coming Soon... 

Well, that concludes the blog's first special feature series! Never fear, I have other series planned for the future! But first, here's what to look for in the immediate future: 

1) A Syfy movie review in a few days
2) An Omen series recap at the end of the week

October 27, 2010

Maneater



The wild ‘n’ crazy Gary Busey. A killer tiger. A little boy who insists the tiger is “misunderstood.” Sounds like a promising Syfy movie, no? If only it hadn’t been so lifeless…the possibilities were endless!

Plot Summary

A truck overturns on a rural road in “Taruga County.” (The movie was filmed in Winnipeg, but I got the distinct sense that it was supposed to be a rural Southern town, like in North Carolina.) A tiger escapes, and starts snacking on the unsuspecting townspeople. Can Sheriff Grady Barnes (Busey) stop the “misunderstood” tiger?

Nutrition Facts

Vitamin B-Acting: 80%

Gary Busey turns in a most intriguing performance. His “Saawthun” accent is a hoot, as are his ill-fitting tweed jackets. He swings back and forth between "bemused hamminess" and "zoned out." As long as you don’t blink, you’ll catch the moments when his acting talent comes out.

As for the rest of the cast, you can expect static, dull acting. Except for the mayor, who’s a total caricature of the Jaws mayor. 

Vitamin B-SFX: 10%

A few dismembered limbs and an explosion or two, but really nothing of note in B-movie terms.

The closest the movie comes to “cinematic art” occurs in the dream sequences involving the boy, Roy, and the tiger. You guessed it—they’re shot in soft, gauzy light with distorted camera angles. Sadly, we don’t witness the tiger actually talking to the boy, but it is tempting to envision them as Calvin and Hobbes.

"I haven't seen Susie Derkins lately..."
Vitamin Fun: 40%

The movie starts out strong—I mean, strong in the B-movie way, with lots of cheesiness. Then it turns into the most boring movie in the second half, with a flabby ending. Darn it, little Roy doesn’t even have a serious face-off with Hobbes in which he bellows to the heavens, “How could you betray me, Hobbes? I loved you! I defended you when everybody said you were a mindless killer!”

Seriously, though, the movie’s second half gets too concerned with exploring the characters’ tragic backstories and philosophizing about man’s relationship with nature. Oh, Hobbes kills a few people, but he’s hardly the main concern of the script. This script is heavy on sugar, which brings us to the next category…

Sugar: 50%

This one piles on the tragic backstories with a big red shovel:

1) Roy lives with a super-religious mother who homeschools him using the Bible. As a result, he’s lonely (except for Hobbes).

2) Grady and his wife can’t have children. Guess who they end up adopting when Hobbes eats the super-religious mother?

YUMMEE
3) We also meet Colonel James Livingston Graham, a British hunter who walked straight off a Masterpiece Theater production set in colonial Africa. Or India, as the case is with Graham. Anyway, once upon a time, while hunting a maneating tiger in India, Graham was sleeping in a hut with his family. The tiger crept inside and made off with his 12-year-old son. Graham was accused of messing up the hunt, and his reputation sullied. Will hunting Hobbes heal Graham’s inner wounds?

Plot Fiber: 70%

From what I’ve read of maneating tigers, it’s not at all implausible that Hobbes could evade his hunters and manage to kill a lot of people.  Of course, as per the laws of Syfy, the characters do dumb stuff like split themselves up while hunting for Hobbes. But still, Hobbes doesn’t possess any special powers—he’s not a genetically altered creature or the hideous result of a nuclear bomb. He does what tigers do best: hunt.

The movie also did a pretty good job of depicting the media and public frenzy that would go with the discovery of a maneater on the loose. (Though the websites that appear are very quaint by today’s standards.)

Graham, on the other hand…I want to know how his time travel from 1890s Africa worked. Did he have a DeLorean? Or did he arrive via a Jumanji board?

October 24, 2010

Omen IV: The Awakening



Just like the original Omen, but with a girl instead. Just as silly as the original Omen—with one exception. This one has the best “Damien” character thus far.

Have you recovered from your shock? Good. Let’s dig into the details, shall we?


Plot Summary


Karen and Gene York adopt a beautiful baby girl who they name Delia. For the first few years, they’re a happy family. Then strange things happen and people start dying. The little girl always seems to be involved somehow, and Karen begins to wonder about Delia’s real identity. 
 

Nutrition Facts

Vitamin B-Acting: 20%


This movie is notably different from the others in its lack of big stars. Faye Grant, Michael Woods, and Michael Lerner all acted mostly in TV, rather than movies. Their performances are low-key and decent. Only the nuns and Delia’s first nanny can fairly be accused of overacting in this installment.


Asia Vieira plays Delia, and compared with Harvey Stephens and Jonathan Scott-Taylor, she’s a pint-sized Meryl Streep. The first time I watched Omen IV a few years ago, I laughed at the movie, including Delia, without a second thought. But after watching the movies in sequence, it occurred to me that Vieira actually played her role well. She conveyed Delia’s manipulative ability more effectively than either Stephens or Scott-Taylor. 


"Anything those boys can do, I can do better!"
I could also imagine Vieira’s Delia growing into a charming, albeit sociopathic, politician much more easily than Stephens’ or Scott-Taylor’s Damiens. It helped that Asia Vieira used more than three facial expressions during the whole movie.

By the way, if the name “Asia Vieira” sounds familiar at all, she played the sidekick on the Disney Channel show “Flash Forward.”



Today, Disney. Tomorrow...THE WORLD!
In case you’re wondering if I think this is a good movie, don’t worry. I thought the rest of the movie was terrible.

Vitamin B-SFX: 0%


Vitamin Fun: 70%


The best way to enjoy this movie is to ritually mock it, like people do for the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Omen IV begs for this kind of treatment, considering how often it directly rips off the original Omen’s script. I put forth these moments from Omen IV as candidates for mockery:


1) Anytime the following happens:


--Characters quoting the same biblical quotes as in The Omen
--A character explains where the Antichrist will come from (politics)
--A Rottweiler saunters into the scene
--When a Catholic nun/priest who knows the truth is about to die/go bonkers

2) The scene in which the father of one of Delia’s classmates is beheaded by the lowered back door of a truck (total rip-off from the glass plate truck scene in The Omen)


3) Delia’s first nanny dies 

4) Karen kills Delia's demonic nanny, just like Gregory Peck in the first movie

Eh, Mrs. Blaylock was much more hammy and fun to watch.
5) Demonic auras appear in photographs 

6) Woman's intuition is brushed off as pregnancy-induced hysteria 

7)  The Great Horse Freakout—the equine version of the first movie’s baboon scene. When the horses start neighing, someone in the audience should start yelling “FRAU BLUCHER!”


WHINNY!

Here are some other moments that aren’t total ripoffs from the original, but nevertheless deserve to be incorporated into a ritual mocking:

1) The use of clowns


2) The crystals and Kirlian photographs (Next time I have a hard time persuading someone that the Antichrist is among us, I’ll just say, “But I saw it in a KIRLIAN PHOTOGRAPH!!!”)


3) The wrecking ball scene

4) Whenever yet another upside-down cross appears, no matter how forced the setup

Sugar: 0%


Plot Fiber: 3%


Bumped it up a tiny bit to Vieira’s acting, but plenty of bones to pick still.


Before going into my traditional dissection of the death scenes, there are two brief scenes I’d like to comment on.

 

The first is Delia’s christening. I found it absolutely laughable that the witnesses considered Delia’s crying at the baptismal font strange and unholy. Had the writers ever been to a baby’s baptism? If a baby crying during its baptism was a sign of satanic influence, the Antichrists would have overrun the world long ago.

The second scene takes place during Delia’s birthday party. One moment, we’re staring at one of the most frightening clown faces ever, then mercifully Terror Clown turns away to face the children. No one is screaming, though. Not one child. How often does this happen in the real world? Perhaps the kids were just terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought? (Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a picture of the clown.)


Now for the real fun—the deaths. The movie has two particularly stupid deaths—the glass plate truck ripoff and Michael Lerner’s death by wrecking ball.


I’ve already mentioned the truck beheading scene. An additional poetic touch helps distinguish it from the glass plate beheading in The Omen. Instead of seeing the man’s head rolling around in Omen IV, the moviemakers tastefully rolled a pink rubber ball with a clown face down the parking lot.


Michael Lerner’s death is an epic scene. First, Lerner walks down the street, looking at shop displays. He admires a toy crane in one window (foreshadowing!). A choir sings Christmas carols on the street. Lerner walks over to a nativity scene. It starts out your typical nativity scene. Then…the carols turn ominous…OMG, it’s the evil Latin chanting! The nativity Jesus turns into a zombie Jesus! Then we get the ultimate treat—we get to see the evil choir IN PERSON! 



In the off season, they work at the London Dungeon.
Trying to get away from the evil aura enveloping him, Lerner runs straight for a construction site. Naturally. Of course, the wrecking ball crane has powered up all by itself. We get to watch in extreme slo-mo as the ball smashes through a trailer and makes its way to Lerner’s noggin. Then we cut to a shot of egg yolks splattered on the floor.

One last thing. As you may have guessed from my mention of crystals and Kirlian photography, there’s a lot of New Age in this film. Delia’s first (and doomed) nanny, Jo, uses New Age to figure out that Delia is evil. Not only does the New Age feel dated, but…

 

I'm with Delia where New Age is concerned.
Tune in next week for my review on the final movie in the series—the 2006 Omen remake with Julia Stiles, Liev Schreiber, and Mia Farrow!

October 17, 2010

Omen III: The Final Conflict

 
 
I will just say that Sam Neill’s role as Damien in Omen III makes his role in Jurassic Park look like a high-art, Oscar-worthy performance by comparison.

Plot Summary

Damien Thorn (Sam Neill) is now 32 years old, and the filthy rich head of Thorn Industries. Thanks to him, Thorn has been single-handedly saving the world from droughts, famines, and wars that resulted from the Great Recession. Thorn gets himself named US Ambassador to England, the first step in his plan to work towards the Presidency and then take over the world. But the Scriptures predict the Second Coming of Christ at the same time. Will Damien kill the new Son of God, or will supposedly Italian monks manage to protect the baby and kill Damien? 

"Dear Lord, please send the holy velociraptors to help us hunt Damien!"
Nutrition Facts

Vitamin B-Acting: 85%


All the credit goes to Sam Neill. I’ll freely admit that I’ll take him as Damien any day over the two boys who played the young Damien in the previous movies. At least Sam Neill has actual acting talent. Trouble is, that talent couldn’t do much to alleviate the horrible lines Neill had to deliver.
 
The script is not all to blame, though. Neill overacts a lot. Now, he does do a much better job of being charming than the previous Damiens. I’ll give him that. But he still indulges in plenty of ham. His best moments occur whenever he gives a speech. I’ll give you an example from a scene in which he prays to Satan. As you read the dialogue, just imagine Neill glaring at a really ugly giant crucifix and speaking in a superior tone of voice: 

Nazarene, charlatan, what can you offer humanity? Since the hour you vomited forth from the gaping wound of a woman, you have done nothing but drown man's soaring desires in a deluge of sanctimonious morality. You've inflamed the pubertal mind of youth with your repellent dogma of original sin.
Gotta love that writing, huh?

Another great Damien moment is when he orders his followers to kill all baby boys born within a certain frame of time, a la King Herod. Picture Neill trying to imitate great speakers like Martin Luther King, Jr., but twisting his mouth grotesquely in the process:
I now command you to seek out and destroy the Nazarene child. Slay the Nazarene... and I shall reign forever. FAIIIL...and I perish. FAIIIL...and you shall perish.
Vitamin B-SFX: 60%

Again, not a lot of special effects, but when they appear, they are very bad. The lightning in the church ruins scene is positively cartoonish. This film also tends towards artsy-fartsy touches, like showing a shot of a crucifix Jesus shedding a bloody tear after Damien razzes him.

Then there’s the ending, when Damien lies dead on a stone slab in the churchyard. Jesus makes an appearance and jerkily spreads his arms in a poorly animated piece:
 
God does a really lame victory dance.

Vitamin Fun: 50%

This installment is rather tedious, and it shoves more Biblical quotes down your throat than the previous movies do. Damien’s speeches and the monks’ incompetent assassination attempts are easily the best moments in the movie.

Sugar: 10%

God triumphs in the end, but we may all be laughing too hard (or asleep) to notice.

Plot Fiber: 0%

Like its predecessors, this movie suffers from a million plot holes. However, Omen III goes a step further by contradicting the earlier movies. In the original Omen, Bugenhagen clearly explains to Robert Thorn that Robert must stab Damien with seven sacred daggers—each dagger stab will extinguish a part of Damien’s soul. But in Omen III, just one dagger will suffice.

So, if only one dagger will do the job, why can’t the monks succeed in killing Damien? These have got to be some of the least butt-kicking monks to exist in Hollywood. According to Hollywood, all monks have at least some training in martial arts or basic weaponry, but these monks are at least as dumb as the satanic minions. 

"I'm riding a white horse. That ought to guarantee moral victory!"
Here’s what the monks do wrong:

1) They publicly announce their intention to kill Damien…while Damien walks past them.

2) Like Satan’s minions throughout the films thus far, the monks cook up impossibly convoluted schemes to trap and kill Damien. This results in Damien playing Whack-a-Monk. For instance, one monk tries to ride down a cable a la Tarzan while Damien is interviewed in a TV studio. Damien sparks a fire, and when the monk swings through it, he burns up. 

The TV studio--as you can see, the '70s' influence lingered into the early '80s.
The second attempt involves luring “Damien” out into a ruined church in the countryside, then cornering him. (This is the fake lightning scene.) One of Damien’s minion Rottweilers, however, tricks the monk into thinking the man is Damien, when it’s actually one of their fellow monks. The monks stab their fellow, then walk straight into a pit and die.

The final attempt involves tricking Damien away from the other hunters during a fox hunt, and then cornering him on a bridge. Would have worked well, but the monks forgot to bring a gun to shoot all the evil foxhounds. 

Oops.
Why didn’t the monks just rush Damien in a crowd when they had the chance?

Enough about the monks. The minions are marginally smarter than the monks in the movie, but the first killing was rather pointless. In order to become Ambassador to England, Damien’s minions have to first kill the current one. The ambassador is walking along in the park, then a Rottweiler Jedi-mind-tricks him into killing himself. But does the ambassador simply take a gun to his head? No. The Rottweiler apparently told the ambassador to set up an elaborate gun rig in his office. He positions a handgun on his desk, ties the trigger to the doorknob, and calls a press conference. When the reporters open the door to begin the conference, it sets off the gun and he dies. Pretty impressive, that a dog can deliver such detailed instructions to a human. Heck, that Rottweiler probably could have written a better script!

"I graduated Summa Cum Laude from Harvard!"
 

October 13, 2010

Monsterwolf



Okay, finally got around to posting a "31 Days of Halloween" movie from Syfy!
 
Angry spirit wolf, evil oil company, rednecks—now there’s a winning combo for a Syfy Original Movie! The cast has good chemistry, the story actually sort of makes sense, and the villains die gratifyingly violent deaths. Monsterwolf is not a rollicking pile of looniness like Mega Piranha, but it’s still a good romp.

Plot Summary

During a secret, illegal drilling operation, an oil company called Holter Ex accidentally releases a vengeful Native American spirit wolf in Crowley, Louisiana. (Evil oil company in Louisiana? Gee, I wonder which major event inspired this movie?) The wolf goes after everybody associated with Holter Ex, and only the last living member of the Atakapa tribe can stop the wolf’s rampage. 
Nutrition Facts

Vitamin B-Acting: 40%

All of the B-acting comes from the villain, Holter Ex CEO Mr. Stark (played by Robert Picardo, who was the doctor on “Star Trek: Voyager”). Picardo lays on the ham, which suits his role as the uberheartless CEO perfectly. Buy up neighborhood land? Done! Blow up the Native American artifacts so he can continue drilling unhindered? You bet! Shoot the Choctaw chief to stop a lawsuit against Holter Ex? Naturally! 

The one thing that terrifies Stark--the MEDIA!
The other actors do their job, and not much more. Jason London has a major role as Yale, the female lead’s romantic interest—I note this only because his brother Jeremy has appeared in many fine, fine Syfy movies. More Londons can only mean good things for Syfy Original Movie fans.

Vitamin B-SFX: 30%

The wolf is a fairly competent SFX by Syfy standards, but it’s still clearly fake, and the huge teeth will provoke some giggles.

Unusually, the movie contains animated sequences. This occurs while Chief Turner of the Choctaws relates the sad tale of Kachinawea, aka “Monsterwolf.” (The captions had trouble settling upon the right spelling—KAchinawea? KUchinawea?) The animation, while far below Disney or Pixar’s level, was decent for the kind of movie it appeared in. 

Tremble, Tony Hayward!
Vitamin Fun: 80%

The story rolls along well, the acting is decent and hammy in all the right places. For a bonus, Yale and Maria (the female lead) are accompanied by Yale’s perpetually high/drunk redneck best friend, Chase. Frankly, Chase has no real reason to be in the story at all, except to offer his special brand of high/drunk advice.

Oh, have I mentioned the squad of crack assassins that Stark hires to kill Chief Turner and Kachinawea? The squad’s leader is a man who’s like a cross between Samuel L. Jackson and Ving Rhames from “Con Air.” The leader dies a spectacularly fiery death by Kachinawea’s paw, of course.

Sugar: 30%

There are two parts to the sugar in this movie. First, Maria herself. She left her tiny town to go to law school in New York. She starts the movie working for Stark, but then rediscovers her soul mate in Yale and realizes how far she was straying from the path of happiness and inner fulfillment.

Secondly, Maria’s mother died in a car accident when she was 16…and Maria was driving the car. The accident happened because Maria’s mother had revealed that…MARIA WAS ADOPTED! Are you crying yet? (Guess who turns out to be the last living Atakapa, and the only person who can stop Kachinawea?)

Plot Fiber: 75%

Surprisingly strong logic by Syfy movie standards. Kachinawea’s backstory makes sense in the context of the long history of troubled Native American-whites relationships. Otherwise, the plot follows Jaws pretty closely: monster pops up, people don’t believe it at first, and then the bodies pile up and they believe.

Of course, not every moment in the movie makes sense—there’s a few times when Kachinawea goes after people who shouldn’t be on his hit list. But hey, the more carnage in a Syfy movie, the better, right? Compared with the gaping plot holes I’ve witnessed in other Syfy movies, I’m inclined to forgive the relatively small plot holes in Monsterwolf.

Supplements

Pseudoscience Pill: N/A

Political Pill: 100%


Big oil? Check.

Native Americans vs. greedy white capitalists? Check.
 
However, the way the movie is written, these political undercurrents are quite gratifying. Kachinawea inflicts bloody vengeance upon Big Oil, and also gets a good dig into evil white men on the Choctaws’ behalf. You’re more likely to enjoy this Political Pill rather than choke on it.

Likelihood of choking: 10%

October 10, 2010

Damien: Omen II


Oh boy, oh boy—if this sequel is any indicator, The Omen series is the kind that only “improves” with each movie. Damien: Omen II pumps up the bad acting, the ludicrous killings, and the plot idiocy. Plus, this one features an evil black raven! Best of all, it’s set in my hometown of Chicago! Go, Chicago! Really, it’s only appropriate, given what a pit of political corruption Chicago has been lately.

Plot Summary

Damien Thorn is now an obnoxious evil teenager who lives with his uncle’s family in the rich suburbs of Chicago. As he approaches the big 1-3, his demonic powers come into their own. Will the crazy Christians…um, I mean, the good people be able to convince Damien’s uncle (Robert Thorn’s brother) to kill Damien before he inherits the family business and TAKES OVER THE WORLD OMG?!?

Nutrition Facts

Vitamin B-Acting: 75%

Jonathan Scott-Taylor, who plays Damien, has about as much acting talent as Harvey Stephens—so in other words, none at all. I applaud the moviemakers for at least achieving internal consistency on the point of Damien’s acting. The highlight of Scott-Taylor’s “acting” occurs right before he kills his cousin Mark. Damien bellows a short monologue starting with: “Born in the image of the greatest power in the world! The Desolate One.” There's just something about listening to a baby-faced 13-year-old say those lines with no emotion...

Desolate One, Jr.
William Holden, as Damien’s uncle Richard, is the Featured Embarrassed Actor for this movie. Omen II can hardly hope to compete with the likes of Sunset Boulevard, Stalag 17, and The Bridge on the River Kwai.

There are a few fun cameos here. If you watch this movie, you’re likely to recognize Aunt Marion as the lawyer Juno from Beetlejuice (Sylvia Sidney), and Pasarian as Dr. Sidney Freedman from "MASH" (Allan Arbus).

Vitamin B-SFX: 95%

Omen II’s special effects are worse than the original film’s. One thing you’ll notice is the prominence of the color red. Joan Hart, a reporter who knows what Damien really is, sports a coat with a humongous feather collar made of a retina-melting shade of bright red. How much more marked for death can a person be, with a coat like that? Forget knowing that Damien is the Antichrist. That coat was a fashion crime punishable only by death!

"How DARE you? This coat does NOT make me look like a streetwalker!"
And yes, Joan does die. She’s driving on a rural roadway after spying on Damien at military school, and the evil crow swoops down and pecks out her eyes. Then a large truck conveniently arrives to run over Joan.

Red next appears when a doctor who notices abnormalities in Damien’s blood has to die. First, we see a line of beakers with bubbly red liquid glowing as the camera zooms in on Dr. Kane. BTW, I’m sure that the American Medical Association mandates all doctors to keep ominously bubbling beakers in their offices.


Anyway, Dr. Kane realizes that Damien has jackal blood, and runs off with the samples to consult a colleague. He enters a stairway painted BRIGHT RED with an elevator shaft in the center. (I’m pretty sure that this is the Red Stairwell at the Museum of Science and Industry, but I’m not certain.) Needless to say, this proves to be the Elevator of Doom for good Dr. Kane, and he proceeds to die in a hilariously unconvincing manner. (More details to come later in this post!)

The other notably goofy SFX don’t feature red, but they have no trouble standing out on their own merits. When Dr. Kane dies, for instance, the things sticking out of his sliced body look suspiciously like bedsprings. The blood on Joan Hart’s face looks a lot like water with red food dye added to it.

Then there’s “Vigael’s Wall.” This is supposed to be an ancient wall with portraits of the Antichrist from the four stages of his life. The first, of course, looks just like Harvey Stephens from the first Omen. I’ll let the picture speak for itself:

Sparkly snakes!
Vitamin Fun: 50%

More enjoyable than the first movie--the ramped-up silliness is guaranteed to make you laugh plenty.

Sugar: 10%

I think the movie intends us to think that Damien struggles a little with learning he’s the Antichrist, and then when he pulls a Darth Vader on Mark. However, these scenes are so poorly written and acted that they ultimately have no emotional effect on the viewer.

Plot Fiber: 0%

Looking back on my review for The Omen, I probably should have given it a Plot Fiber rating of 5%. The original film certainly seems more logical than Omen II.

1) Again with the overly convoluted deaths. Why peck out Joan Hart’s eyes in the first place? Why not just have a truck ram into her car?

The Elevator of Doom is easily the silliest death in the entire movie, though. Here are the details: Dr. Kane gets in the elevator. Instead of going down, it goes all the way to the top, then free falls. Then it stops on the third floor, and Dr. Kane is still okay. But the safety cables break loose, and when they fall they slice through the elevator and slice Dr. Kane in half! (You can see the bedsprings sticking out of his “body” then.) Why not just let the elevator smash into the ground? That would have done the job plenty well. Apparently Satan has never watched "Mythbusters."

The death of Charles Warren, the Field Museum curator, is tough to believe as well—why would he not have seen that runaway train coming from ten miles away? Wouldn’t it have been much easier to just leave him to the NYC muggers?

Speaking of the Field Museum, I was really disappointed that the moviemakers didn’t have the T-Rex skeleton collapse and kill a character. That would have been awesome! Maybe they thought that would be “too much”?

2) Once again, the minions drop the ball constantly. The worst one in this movie is Damien’s aunt, Ann, played by Lee Grant. She had the easiest access to intelligence regarding people who suspected Damien’s true identity. All of these people, naturally, then stay alive long enough to awaken her husband’s suspicions. Did Ann really need to wait until Richard had the sacrificial daggers in his hands? (Though that moment when she yells “DAMIEN!!!” in that orgasmic way is a bucket of laughs.)

Aunt Ann--before going out in a blaze of glory
3) The way Joan Hart and Charles Warren transform into crazy religious fanatics irritates me. Yes, if the Antichrist really did exist, and you knew the truth, you’d likely be terrified. But how does panicking help? Besides, if they watched Father Brennan in the first movie, they’d know that rushing up to a main character and screaming at them to “take Christ into your heart RIGHT NOW” doesn’t help at all.
Supplements

Pseudoscience Pill: N/A

Political Pill: 5%

There is some talk about whether Richard’s agricultural company should pursue a strategy that would likely lead to famine. (If you guessed that the evil Antichrist allies within the company proposed the strategy, you get a sticker!) However, the opposing strategies for the company are so far apart on the axis of good and evil that the politics, if there really is any, is very shallow.

Likelihood of choking: 0%

Tune in next Sunday for the Omen III--the Sam Neill version!



October 3, 2010

The Omen (1976)


 The Omen is the sort of movie that creates a sharp divide: either you believe it’s a genuinely creepy movie, or you think it’s a bad movie. To be fair, The Omen creeped me out the first time I saw it when I was about 12. Then I saw it a second time, and I found myself thinking one thing:

“Why would the Devil be so dumb?”

That one question ended any chance that I would consider The Omen a good movie. I have other reasons for thinking it’s a bad movie, but the “stupid Satan” reason outweighs the rest. If you want to defend The Omen, please feel free to do so in the comments—just remember this isn’t the place for theological debates.

Plot Summary

Ambassador Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) and his wife Katherine (Lee Remick) live in London with their perfect little boy, Damien (Harvey Stephens). But then Damien’s nanny kills herself, and a weird middle-aged lady replaces her. Baboons attack Damien and Katherine. Strange men pester Thorn with talk of the Apocalypse. Gradually, Thorn puts together the signs and figures out that Damien is really the Antichrist. Can Thorn bring himself to kill the boy?

Nutrition Facts


Vitamin B-Acting: 60%


Harvey Stephens cannot act. His attempt to display fright in the baboon attack scene is hilariously bad. Stephens’ face is like a mask—emotion doesn’t penetrate into his eyes. Having no empathy might be appropriate for the Antichrist. But given how the movie claims that the Antichrist will rise from the world of politics, it’s very difficult to see how this Damien could be a successful politician. Politicians need charm and charisma; Damien has neither. I’d wager that people would be more likely to look at 5-year-old Damien and think, “That boy is going to be a serial killer.” The acting and script just don’t mesh in Damien’s case.


"NO! NO! I WON'T ACT!!!"
The acting of Gregory Peck, Lee Remick and David Warner (the photographer) is not awful, but it isn’t particularly great, either. Peck appears on the edge of falling asleep several times. His performance often seems rather ponderous at times, which is also true of the movie in general.

The Hamminess Award goes to Billie Whitelaw, who really rocks her crazy-eyed demonic governess role in the climax. 

Mrs. Blaylock, Damien's, er, VERY devoted nanny
Vitamin B-SFX: 85%

The makeup job on Father Spiletto looks fake, and the photographer’s death is ridiculous. However, I’m thinking primarily of the music here.

My DVD version’s captions write out the Latin chanting in full. The music itself is already relentless and overused, but having the words visible only made the music seem even more idiotic to me. The music really spoils the events onscreen, because it tends to kick up well before a death occurs. We already have Satan announcing his murders well in advance—do we really need the music telling us when a death is about to happen, too?

Vitamin Fun: 30%

This is the sort of movie that’s best watched with fellow hecklers, because otherwise it will be painfully slow and boring. (Except for Harvey Stephens’ attempts at acting and the incredibly forced plot contrivances, of course.)

Sugar: 0%


Nothing will make you cry in this movie, unless it’s laughter, or the music finally gets to you.

Plot Fiber: 0%

If I was Satan from The Omen, I’d send this memo to my minions:

1) Thou shalt not kill using ridiculously convoluted methods in public places.

Beheaded by a glass plate in a place full of tourists? A hanging in front of at least 50 witnesses? Please, minions, just shoot them in a dark alleyway next time. 


2) Thou shalt not announce thy murders—or thy killing methods—in advance.

Clean up after your demonic auras so they don’t show up in photos, or in any other media. Seriously, how careless is it to leave an aura in the shape of the murder weapon you’ll use?

Death by spear--foretold in about 100 photos taken of the priest beforehand
3) Thou shalt dispose of all trace of thy earthly activities.  

You just left the bones of Damien’s real mother in a grave that anyone could find after a little investigating? 


Give me a break, minions! We have plenty of fires in Hell hot enough to incinerate remains! And why, exactly, did you leave all those people who knew about the Antichrist alive for so long? Bugenhagen, Father Brennan, and Father Spiletto should all have been killed as soon as they went against my mission. IDIOTS!!!

And this would be my personal list of New Year’s resolutions, as Satan:

1) Father an Antichrist who is not an antisocial twerp.

2) Ensure that future Antichrists’ human guardians can actually pass for normal in the real world.

3) Next time, use poodles instead of Rottweilers. Better yet, use Newfoundlands. Nobody expects a demonic Newfoundland! 



Pseudoscience and Political Pills: N/A

October 2, 2010

October Plans

Hello, dear readers! I've got a few special plans for this month:  

1) SATANIC SUNDAYS 

It's October--I have to work in a Halloween-type movie, right? So this month, I'll watch and post reviews on every movie in "The Omen" series. These posts will go up every Sunday, hence "Satanic Sundays." Tomorrow will be the original "Omen," followed by its three increasingly sucky sequels. I will also review the remake of "The Omen" on Halloween.

2) THE 31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN 

This is prime, prime Syfy Original movie season. Every year Syfy Channel has a "31 Days of Halloween" movie fest. They basically use it as an excuse to play every single movie they have. Unfortunately, it won't be possible for me to review a movie for every day in October, but I will post reviews on a few choice movies this month. (No, I'm not going to spoil the surprise by telling you what I plan to review.)