As I mentioned last time, I’ve been having a bit of an identity crisis and I’m still not sure if the catalyst was a blogging crisis or a personal one. Blog topics are an easier one to change up though, so I thought I’d start with that and see where it took me. My prior blogging incarnations were film-based and, encouraged by joining in Twitter chats run by A Film Club, it seemed like a natural progression for me. It’s definitely one topic I feel comfortable writing about: not a new direction but a challenging one. The only problem was where to start!
Now that we’re officially into October, I’ve started feeling festive. The last few days have seen a definite turn in the air. If you go a walk at the right time (and provided it’s dry) there’s a definite glow you just don’t get any other time of year. With the nights fair drawin’ in (as yer granny might say), what better time to draw the curtains, coorie in and get into the Hallowe’en spirit with some horror?
One of my all-time favourites is The Omen- there’s something inherently creepy about children, right? I figured since it’s such a classic, it’d be a good place to start- a sort of Horror 101, if you will. We’ve watched it to death though, and until the last week I’d never actually watched the sequels. Ally kept suggesting it but I kept putting it off lest it tarnish my love for the original. Now that we’ve got our nights to ourselves- therefore more time to watch things- I figured maybe it was about time I gave ’em a shot. The results were mixed… but at least I know now, right?
The Omen (1976)
It’s fitting that I was hesitant to watch the sequels since it took me so long to get around to this in the first place. I’d been so disappointed by The Exorcist- after staying up late and plugging my headphones into my TV to watch it when I was way too young- that I foolishly assumed that all mainstream studio horrors would fall short of the hype. I needn’t have worried though. There’s been so much written about this film in its forty year lifespan that I won’t be adding anything new. However, if you haven’t seen it, I cannot recommend it enough. It features some gloriously impressive set pieces, which even those who have lapsed between viewings are likely to remember. Director Richard Donner gleefully delivers the film’s chilling death scenes without relying on gore and sets it to one of the most iconic scores in horror history. The real devil is in the detail though, from the expanse of Thorn Manor to a haunting darkroom discovery. Whether you’ve never seen it or (like me) you’ve seen it to death, it’s the perfect all-rounder film to kick off your Hallowe’en season.
Damien: Omen II (1978)
Very few horror sequels ever surpass their originals. It’d be nice if there were more that were at least as good though, right? So many re-tread old patterns and lack the imagination or suspense of their predecessors. The Omen II is- to my surprise- actually very enjoyable. The story follows a now teenaged Damien (Jonathan Scott-Taylor), adopted by his aunt and uncle and going off to military school. We see more of the world as Damien does in this sequel, which is an interesting take on the story. The first film is about him, yes, but it’s more about his father’s attempts to uncover the truth about him. The Omen II shows events unfolding through Damien’s eyes, as he struggles to come to terms with his curse and subsequent abilities while navigating the world of pre-pubescence. Like its predecessor, there are some memorable death set-pieces, albeit a little more graphic that what came before. Still, Omen II presents new developments: Damien is genuinely troubled by the revelation that he is, in fact, the son of the Devil. He’s grown up, made friends, and to all intents and purposes thinks of himself as a regular (if privileged) teenage boy. He doesn’t have the same menace that Harvey Stephens originated but he seems all the more human for it. These glimpses into his human nature make the film’s finale seem all the more shocking, if a little rushed. It doesn’t have the same legacy as The Omen, but it’s a solid, enjoyable and memorable follow up that earns its own merit as a companion piece.
The Omen III: Final Conflict (1981)
I’ve noticed a pattern emerging in the event of a trilogy. Sometimes, a strong third instalment can rival or often overtake a sequel in the quest for second place. I much prefer Die Hard With A Vengeance to Die Hard II, Red Dragon glosses over the mess of Hannibal, I enjoyed Army Of Darkness to Evil Dead II (by a margin though), everyone prefers Indiana Jones’ Last Crusade to his Temple Of Doom… it’s not a scientific theory, which is just as well as The Omen III: Final Conflict would’ve blown it wide open. Damien is now played by Sam Neil (kindly badass Alan Grant from Jurassic Park) and is now head honcho at Thorn Industries and fully embracing his role as despotic megalomaniac. He’s gearing up for a final battle with ‘the Nazarene’ and does so through nefarious means, such as slaughtering all baby boys born under the alignment of Cassiopeia. This plot thread leaves a pretty nasty taste in the mouth, as do the gruesome death sequences. I love me some gore, don’t get me wrong. In this case though, it’s just not very enjoyable. It lurches between that and some clunky dialogue leaving it all a bit confused and uneven. As far as third instalments go, it falls firmly into the Alien 3/Godfather 3/X-Men: The Last Stand camp. Army Of Darkness, it is not.
I’ve got a few more horror posts lined up for October (’tis the season, after all), but I’m always open to suggestions or recommendations- or, if you’re feeling constructive, feedback is always appreciated.
’til next time!