Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Franchises: The Omen. (Omen III:)* The Final Conflict (1981)

*The film's actual title is simply The Final Conflict but nowadays, all home video editions put Omen III in front of it in order to ensure that people realize it is part of this franchise. So as to avoid any confusion, as well as simply to include the alternate title, I follow suit.

What intrigued me the most about this film was that Sam Neill played the now adult Damien because, in case you don't know, I've always associated him with one of my favorite movies of all time: Jurassic Park. I'm pretty sure that I knew that fact before I even saw any footage of the film for the first time on the Omen Legacy documentary due to reviews that I had read, notably in John Stanley's Creature Features book. As I said in my review of the second film, I ended up seeing this before that one when I found it on VHS in early 2003 (I was still buying VHS's along with DVDs at that time) and, despite the mixed critical reception concerning it that I had read up on, as well as having seen where the story went and how it ended in that documentary, I was looking forward to watching it since it was my first Omen sequel. But, when I finally did see it, to say that I was underwhelmed is an understatement. I've always felt that the movie should be re-titled, The Anti-Climax, because no other term describes this thoroughly disappointing and lackluster attempt at a cap on a trilogy. Like Damien: Omen II, it has some good notes to it but, also like it's predecessor, it's not a patch on the original 1976 film. Not only is not creepy or scary in the slightest but its biggest failing is that it does not deliver on what its very title promises. Since we're talking about the Second Coming of Christ and Damien's last attempt to prevail and take control of the world, you would expect for this to feature one last, great battle between good and evil, as you would expect anyway from a film series about the rise of the Antichrist; instead, we get a stiff, plodding story that, while it has some interesting and, in some instances, disturbing ideas behind it, at the end of the day feels tired and falls apart during its second half and doesn't lead to anything. Looking at the film, it's a shame that this is where creepy story that begin in the original led and, for all intents and purposes, ended.

The Seven Daggers of Megiddo are recovered from the old ruins of the Thorn Museum in Chicago and are sold at an auction to a priest who, after researching them, sends them to a monastery in Subiaco, Italy. Meanwhile, Damien Thorn is now 32 years old and has been the head of Thorn Industries for seven years, which is now very prosperous and has a tight grip on much of the globe thanks to its control of the food supply for many countries and its relief efforts that gain publicity by helping with catastrophes that Damien himself engineers. Knowing that the Second Coming of Christ, which is prophesized to occur in England, is drawing near, Damien uses his power to make the current U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain commit suicide so he can take his place. It isn't long after his appointment to the position that astronomers begin to see signs of an unusual and oncoming constellation of stars and Father DeCarlo, the head of the monastery in Subiaco, which is the same place where Father Spiletto spent his final days, realizes it the imminent sign of the Second Coming. Also having learned from Spiletto many years ago that Damien is the Antichrist, DeCarlo and six other priests plan to use the daggers to kill him before the Second Coming takes place. In England, Damien has become the cream of English high society thanks to his new position and attracts the attention of TV journalist, Kate Reynolds, who begins spending time with him along with her orphaned son, Peter. The priests' first assassination attempt occurs during a televised interview on Reynolds' television show but it goes awry and ends in the priest's death, as well as in Damien discovering that someone who knows who he is has the daggers in their possession. Shortly afterward, the constellation, which creates something along the lines of a second Star of Bethlehem, comes to pass, heralding the rebirth of Christ, which Damien himself senses. After another attempt on his life by three more of the priests, Damien, determined to prevent the prophesy from coming true, orders his legion of loyal followers to murder every baby boy born between midnight and dawn on the eve of the Rebirth. As the death toll rises, and with Peter now thoroughly seduced by Damien, DeCarlo must convince Reynolds that the man she's fallen for is the son of Satan before he finds the Christ child and dooms mankind to being ruled by evil forever.

Richard Donner almost returned to the director's chair for this film but, due to the massive legal hurdles that he was involved in due to the Salkinds' canning him from finishing Superman II, he was only able to serve as executive producer, so the producers instead hired an unknown, British filmmaker named Graham Baker, who at that time had only directed the short film, Leaving Lilly, and episodes of a couple of television series. Like Don Taylor before him, Baker proved that he was able to make a really good-looking, polished film, but his ability to tell a really interesting, creepy story was severely lacking, not helped in any way by the script. His directing career never really went anywhere after The Final Conflict. He directed the 1984 movie, Impulse, with Tim Matheson and Meg Tilly, an episode of Amazing Stories, and, most notably, the 1988 science fiction cult classic, Alien Nation. He directed three films in the 90's: The Recruit, which IMDB has no information on at all, Born to Ride, with John Stamos and John Stockwell, and Beowulf with Christopher Lambert, after which he never directed again until 2016 with With Love From... Suffolk, a British film that currently has an 8.0 rating on IMDB! Okay, it's only from 21 users, but still, damn! And in case you're wondering, no, I was unable to find any image of Baker whatsoever. Believe me, I tried since, thanks to The Omen Legacy, I know what he looks like from a photo they showed (at the time, he had long hair and his face was kind of odd) but I came up empty-handed. In fact, I had a hard time finding images throughout the writing of this and really struggled in finding relevant ones for certain scenes, so be prepared for that.

Despite its many flaws, acting-wise, the movie has no problems, and nowhere is that clearer than in Sam Neill's performance as Damien. Neill is a good actor anyway and here, he gives an almost Shakespearean and, at the same time, often surprisingly subtle performance as the now adult Antichrist. In this film, not only is Damien truly the main character but he's also fully realized in that there's no longer any doubt, hesitation, or reluctance in him: he's fully embraced his unholy lineage and is determined to fulfill his destiny, intending to prevent the Second Coming from happening any way that he can. He's already the head of a very powerful corporation which has a tight grip on much of the world due to its control over food supplies and its relief efforts for catastrophes that Damien himself engineers (particularly the destruction of the Aswan Dam in Egypt, which he blames on an organization that doesn't exist, causing more unrest) but he sees to it that he becomes Ambassador to Great Britain, to ensure that he'll be ready for the Second Coming when it occurs, and he also makes it clear that he intends to run for the U.S. Senate in a couple of years. Once he becomes Ambassador, Damien becomes the darling of the British social scene and begins influencing others, including Kate Reynolds' son, Peter, whose mind he seduces in order to make him one of his many disciples. This is part of an overall plan to influence children across the world, whom he sees as the "future," which is why, when he accepts the position, he also sees to it that he becomes president of the United Nations Youth Council. When Jesus Christ is reborn, Damien orders his legions of followers to kill every baby boy born between midnight and dawn on March 24th, leading to a horrifying series of child deaths that occur over the following week. This determination to kill Jesus Christ, whom he refers to as, "the Nazarene," is not just to stop the Second Coming but also because Damien has grown to truly despise him and sees his purpose as one of saving mankind from someone he considers to be a bringer of false hope and lies. There are a couple of scenes where he speaks to this statue of a crucified Jesus as if he were really talking to him, using it to vent his hatred for him. The speeches that he gives to the statue are what come across as Shakespearean and classic: "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. And now you absolve in denying them the ultimate joy beyond death by destroying me ? But you will fail, Nazarene, as you have always failed." And near the end of the movie after so many baby boys have been killed, Damien scolds Jesus for doing nothing to stop him, telling him, "'Suffer the little children to come unto me.' Your words, Nazarene, not mine." Even when he's fatally stabbed at the end, Damien remains defiant to the last, with his final words being, "Nazarene, you have won... nothing." Another motivation for Damien is to avenge his father, whom he feels suffered the agony that Jesus felt on the cross a hundred times over and who he refers to as the one who, "Mankind reviles yet aches to embrace." He becomes to enraged thinking about it that he tries to push the crown of thorns deeper into the Jesus statue's head, causing him to cut his hand and bleed on it, and says, "Satan, I will avenge thy torment by destroying the Christ forever."

Even though he's plotting to take over the world, Damien does take time to strike up a relationship with popular British TV journalist, Kate Reynolds, and while this mostly comes out of his twisting her son's mind to do his bidding, he does take enough interest in her to eventually have sex with her. Given who he is, it's unlikely that Damien actually felt anything for her, particularly since it seems like he tried to kill her beforehand by tricking her into falling into some rushing rapids and then, when they were in the middle of sex, he got very rough and basically raped her, as well as scratched up her back, not to mention that none of his interactions with her gave him second thoughts about what he was doing to her and her son. I'm guessing that even the Antichrist has needs and he was just killing time in the midst of all the evil he was doing. The only complaint I have about Damien, other than there being no actual final conflict between him and the reborn Jesus Christ (unless you count those scenes between him and that statue that I described), is how easily he's killed at the end. At this point, he should be at the peak of his power, which we do get a sense of given how everything evil that happens is most definitely being caused by him, as opposed to the previous films where it was Satan himself trying to protect his son, and yet, he's killed by being stabbed in the back by only one of the Daggers of Megiddo. In fact, those priests each tried to kill him with one of the daggers, whereas before, you had to use all seven and you had to do it on holy ground on top of that. That does not feel right at all considering how Damien is now fully realized. Plus, I feel that it should have been Jesus Christ who struck him down, rather than his being killed by Kate or, for that matter, anyone with those daggers. I think it would have been much more epic and, most importantly, made more dramatic sense if it had been revealed all along that those previous attempts to kill Damien with those daggers were always doomed to fail because only the son of God could destroy the son of Satan, per the prophesy in the Book of Revelations. At least that would have made it feel more epic than what we got, in my opinion.

As Damien's love interest, Kate Reynolds, Lisa Harrow (who began an offscreen relationship with Sam Neill that resulted in a son) gives a decent performance despite the fact that she really doesn't have much to do until the third act. She's immediately interested in Damien when she sees him at a societal gathering and, because of his high profile and how much he's accomplished at the young age of 32, she talks with him about doing an interview for her weekly television show. They begin spending time together, which is how Damien is introduced to her son, Peter, and that's possibly when her eventual infatuation with him really begins. As a result, as well as due to her own personal, cynical point of view that keeps her from believing in God, let alone the devil, she initially writes off Father DeCarlo's claims that Damien is the Antichrist as ridiculous but, as he goes on and talks about his own personal connection with Damien, she does listen to him, particularly when he tells her of the "666" birthmark under Damien's hair. After that meeting, Kate does contact Damien again, maybe to try to verify DeCarlo's claims for herself, but whatever her initial intentions were, they take a momentary backseat when she falls into the rapids and after Damien rescues her, the two of them have sex that turns quite violent. It's after that encounter when Kate learns that what DeCarlo said is the truth when she checks under his hair while he's sleeping and finds the birthmark, which both horrifies and devastates her because of the feelings that she did have for him, despite the violent sex. When confronted about this by DeCarlo, Kate initially feigns ignorance and also refuses to believe his claims that Peter has become a follower of Damien, until she discovers that he's not at home where he should be. Now sure that what DeCarlo said must be true, she goes to Damien's mansion just as he's about to truly make the boy one of his followers and, in exchange for Peter, agrees to take him to the place where the reborn Jesus Christ has been hidden. At first, I assumed that this was a part of a trap for Damien that she and DeCarlo came up with since he asked for her to let him come with her back to her house but, given how she gave him away when he tried to jump Damien and stab him with one of the daggers, it seems more like she really was about to lead him to Jesus and doom humanity just so she could have her son back. But, when Damien uses Peter as a shield and he ends up getting stabbed, this enrages Kate to the point where she herself kills Damien with the dagger, saving mankind and causing her to gain faith in God, as can be seen as she's kneeling and praying in the penultimate shot of the movie (she'd asked Christ for help before leading Damien to the location).

Kate's son, Peter (Barnaby Holm), is taken with Damien from their first scene together, seeing him as both a friend and a father figure since his own father has been dead for some time and becomes completely seduced by him as the story progresses. For me, the moment where he really starts to fall under his control is when, after the foxhunt, Damien smears the blood from one of the priests who tried to kill him on his face, which is parallel to a tradition in foxhunting only here, it's a blood rite that initiates Peter into Damien's, "Disciples of the Watch." From then on, Peter is loyal to Damien to a fault, doing whatever he says as well as anything he can to help him, most significantly finding out who Father DeCarlo is from an address he gives to Kate and keeping tabs on him, learning that he visits the home of Damien's private secretary, Harvey Dean. It's never made clear as to whether or not Peter took part in the murders of all the baby boys born in England in the early hours of March 24th but, regardless, by the time the third act enters its last few minutes, Peter is just steps away from becoming a full fledged disciple of Satan, with Kate managing to stop him before he can finish the commandment Damien asks him to repeat. So seduced is Peter by this point that he shields himself behind Damien from his own mother and warns him that her claim that she'll lead him to the location of the reborn Jesus Christ if he gives her son back to her could be a trick. However, as Damien demonstrated at the end of the previous film when he killed his aunt, Peter's loyalty means only so much to him as he uses him as a human shield when DeCarlo comes at him with the dagger, resulting in the boy getting fatally stabbed. Despite this, though, after Damien dies and Jesus Christ returns fully, he seems to resurrect Peter as he hands him over to his mother.

With no father figure to attempt to destroy Damien upon learning of his true nature this time around, we instead have Father DeCarlo (Rossano Brazzi), an Italian priest from the monastery in Subiaco who has known Damien's true identity ever since the events of the first film because Father Spiletto confessed it to him before he passed away. Over the years, he's watched Damien's rise to power from afar, waiting for an opportunity to destroy him himself, and now that his brotherhood has received the Daggers of Megiddo and with the Second Coming of Christ at hand, DeCarlo decides it's now or never. He and a group of other priests travel to England to attempt to kill Damien before the rebirth but, when that attempt fails, they decide that they must locate the Christ child and keep him safe while continuing to try to kill Damien. But, these attempts also fail, resulting in the deaths of all the other priests (less because of Damien and more because these priests come across as incompetent idiots, as I'll get into later), and when DeCarlo then hears Kate Reynolds' news report about a sudden increase in infant deaths, he realizes that she's the only person he can turn to now who might listen to his claims about what's going on. After giving her evidence that proves that all of the victims were born between midnight and dawn on March 24th and appealing to her logic that this mass killing is actually an attempt to get to one baby in particular. When she dismisses his claim that the person behind these killings is the Antichrist and that it's Damien Thorn, he reassures her by telling her of the commandment of not bearing "false witness" and that if he had any doubt about Damien whatsoever, he wouldn't say anything. He also asks her, "You know Thorn the man. Do you know his soul?", and leaves her the research that he and his brotherhood have gathered about Damien so she can make up her own mind about what the truth is, as well as informs her of the birthmark on the back of his head. After his talk with Kate, DeCarlo warns the wife of Damien's private secretary about what's happening, prompting her to find proof that convinces her, and then, after finding and securing the Christ child offscreen, goes back to Kate, who now knows the truth but feigns ignorance about it, finding it hard to accept. That's when he warns her about Damien's control over Peter and tells her that in order to save him, they must kill Damien. This leads to the last scene, where DeCarlo attempts to stab Damien after Kate brings him and Peter to the location where the Christ child can be found but ends up stabbing Peter instead due to Kate's dumb move of yelling, "No!" I'm not sure if Damien kills DeCarlo or just chokes him out and throws him to the ground but, whatever the case, he's not seen again.

I've always been rather curious about Damien's private secretary, Harvey Dean (Don Gordon), and just how he came to acquire this position, especially since he knows he's the Antichrist and helps him in his goal in taking over the world. I once thought that it went something like Harvey either stumbled across it or Damien out and out told him and then said, "Want to be my private secretary and share in my domination?" But, on the other hand, he could have been one of the many Satanists who've been helping and protecting Damien all along and just happened to acquire this position. Whatever the case, despite having a wife and a newborn son, Dean is very loyal to Damien and willing to do anything he asks, including helping him in creating chaos around the globe so he can send in their relief efforts and tighten his grip on humanity further, finding out how the Daggers of Megiddo found their way to Subiaco, Italy, and even organizing the deaths of some of the baby boys who become Damien's targets, angrily telling one guy who doesn't like the idea, "Listen, Peterson, I don't give a shit how you feel about this! Just do the job!" It seems like nothing can shaken his loyalty, including when his wife, Barbara (Leueen Willoughby), finds out the truth and angrily confronts him with it, as he reacts by coldly telling her, "You don't know what you've done." However, there are instances where you do see some humanity, like when he's surprised when Damien says that the President is going to offer him the position of Ambassador to Great Britain and asks about the current Ambassador, his growing frustration with Damien as he becomes more and more concerned about dealing with the reborn Jesus Christ than what's going on with his company abroad, as well as the shocked expression he has when Damien reveals his plan to kill all of the baby boys born on the same date as the Messiah. This is mainly due to concern for his own son, whom it's eventually revealed was born during that same time period despite what he told Damien, and when Damien out-and-out orders him to kill his son or face death himself, Dean decides he's had enough and runs back home to escape with Barbara and the baby. Unfortunately for him, Damien now has Barbara under his control and she murders him after having done the same to their son.

Mason Adams has one scene early on as the unnamed President of the United States who appoints Damien as the new Ambassador to Great Britain after the suicide of the current one. He also looks to Damien for help in diffusing the situation going on in Egypt following the destruction of the Aswan Dam, with Damien feeding him the lie about the "Nubian Liberation Front" being responsible rather than Israel, which Egypt is blaming. When it comes to getting Damien to "accept" the position, the President offers to bend the law and allow him to continue being head of Thorn Industries while he's Ambassador, and reluctantly makes him president of the United Nations Youth Council, which was one of the terms of his taking it up even though it had already been promised to someone else. There seems to be something of a close relationship between the two of them given how much the President respects him and is willing to do for him and while the specifics are never made clear, there's a very slight hint that he may have known Robert Thorn, since he says that he would have been very proud of his son for taking the position.

Atmosphere-wise, The Final Conflict does remind me more of the first film than Damien: Omen II, mainly because we're back in England for the entirety of the story, whereas the second one was set in America save for the opening, and it has that same classy, foreign feel to it. It's certainly not as creepy or foreboding as the original but there is something about the British countryside, with its constant overcast skies, old-fashioned buildings and ruins, and the overall flavor of the nation that suits this kind of story well. Like the others, the film is shot very well, with the landscapes ranging from beautiful to ominous, and the tone gets pretty dark at points, due to some of the deaths being more gruesome than anything in the previous films and also as a result of some aspects of the story, particularly the section where Damien's followers begin killing every baby boy in the country. Fortunately, they don't get overly graphic and tasteless with those child deaths but they're still cringe-inducing regardless, delving into a level of evil that the other films didn't touch and giving the movie more of a dark edge than the second one. The scene where Damien has a meeting with all of his followers and instructs them to kill the baby Jesus is also rather unsettling, both because you see how far and diverse his influence has become by this point (not only do you have priests and nurses but even little kids!) and how utterly devoted they are to him, the scene ending with them chanting, "We hear! We hear!" over and over again, adding even more power to the sequence dealing with the child killings. And yet, in spite of the very dark moments, you also have a parallel feeling of hope for the first time in the entire series, with the feeling that the Second Coming of Christ is imminent and the true dread that it inspires in Damien. The scene where the three stars come together to signal the rebirth is a truly awe-inspiring, beautiful moment, with incredibly holy music and the juxtaposition of Damien's horrified realization and Father DeCarlo and the others rejoicing, with one crossing himself when it happens. This is only a prelude to the ending, where Damien is finally defeated and the Second Coming happens in earnest, with mighty shafts of light, vocalizing voices singing in a majestic and triumphant feel, and passages from the Bible getting across the idea that the Antichrist's reign of terror is over and now, nothing but peace and happiness awaits mankind.

There are a number of other ties between this film and the original than just the setting. Again, you have an already powerful figure becoming the new Ambassador to the Court of St. James, something that was never mentioned or dealt with in the second film; a scene where Damien is hounded by reporters when he arrives at his office one morning; a reporter being a member of the main cast (what's even more significant is that Kate Reynolds kills Damien, which is what Keith Jennings had intended to do before he got decapitated); evil being personified in the form of a Rottweiler, as opposed to the raven in the previous film; a reference to Father Spiletto, the priest who engineered Damien's adoption in the original; somebody close to Damien being warned by a priest that he's the Antichrist and said person not believing it until they find the "666" on the back of his head; and another person who's very close to Damien being a member of the Satanic cult that worships him. Plus, there's also the fact that, even though he didn't direct the film, Richard Donner was involved with it in some capacity, which wasn't the case with the second one.

This film is set in the 1980's, either 1981 or 1982 since Damien mentions his intention to run for the U.S. Senate in 1984 and, because of that, he makes the President agree to allow him to serve as Ambassador for only two years, which means, given that his age here is 32, The Omen and Damien: Omen II were actually set in the 50's and 60's respectively. You might think that this would cause serious continuity problems but, surprisingly, not really. If you go back and look at this movie, there are instances where the vehicles and hair-styles do scream 1970's but, for the most part, Richard Donner and Don Taylor were quite successful in making their films feel very, very timeless. Specifically, no specific dates are given in either film, with The Omen only saying that the story began five years before and Damien: Omen II saying nothing more than it's been seven years since the events of the first film. What's more, I don't remember seeing any clothes that were specific to the 70's (except for maybe that bright red dress Joan Hart wore in the second film), with everyone wearing suits and dresses that could belong to any time. Even the lack of or the very mild profanity, with the original having none at all and the sequel having some instances of "damn" and "hell," makes it easy for me to believe that those films take place in the 50's and 60's (even though I know in reality, strong swear words have existed since long before then), whereas this, being set in the 80's, has the strongest profanity, with "shit" and "sons of bitches" being uttered. It might not have been their intention when they made those two previous films but the filmmakers behind these movies ended up catching a very easy break when they decided to suddenly retcon the given timeline with this one... that is, until they put in an off-camera line that I don't think many catch. As Damien is about to be interviewed by Kate Reynolds, she gives her viewers some background history on him and mentions that he took over Thorn Industries in 1971, a position that he's held for seven years, which would mean that this would actually have to be 1978. Oops. They almost got away with it!

Death-wise, the film begins with what has to be the goriest and most brutal kill in the entire series. The current U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain (Robert Arden) is taking a walk through a park back to his car when he runs into Damien's Rottweiler, who seems to have some sort of hypnotic power over people. After looking into his eyes, the Ambassador walks away in an apparent trance, ignoring his chauffeur, walking through the street without paying any attention to the cars that almost hit him, and heads back to his office at the embassy, where he seems to momentarily recover after splashing his face with water, only to be inexplicably horrified when he looks at himself in the mirror. He then asks for a press conference at 3:00 in his office and creates some kind of set-up using his umbrella holder and a strip from his tape recorder, which he ties around the inside doorknobs. He takes something out of his desk drawer and places it underneath and then sits down and waits calmly for the press to arrive. When they walk up to the door and knock, he tells them to come in, and when they open the door, the tape strip pulls the trigger on a gun angled right at his head. The gun blasts right through his mouth and out the back of his head, covering the wall behind him with blood and utterly horrifying everybody who's witness to it. To make things even more cringe-inducing,  his left foot spasms a little bit and knocks against the side of the desk a few times, which is what really gets me.

The build-up to the second death, that of the first priest who tries to assassinate Damien with one of the daggers while he's being interviewed by Kate Reynolds on her news show, has a couple of moments I've always found kind of interesting. One is a brief moment where, as he's getting his makeup put on, Damien jerks a bit when the woman goes to comb his hair, likely in fear that she'll find the "666," and tells her he'll do it himself, which he does. And then, when he and Harvey Dean are walking to the set, Dean notices a woman who walks past them and tells Damien, "Did you see that woman? It's not a woman. It's a guy! It's a faggot!" Damien simply responds, "They're all God's children, Harvey," and Dean laughs out loud. Besides Damien's making a comment that many Christians would find insulting, I've always thought that moment was just random and didn't contribute much of anything. In any case, the death of the would-be assassin highlights another flaw with the film: these priests suck at what they're trying to do and come across as incompetent with a capital "I." Take this one for example: when he gets caught lurking behind the scenes, he climbs up onto the walkways and rafters above the studio, sneaking into position on a very shaky section of scaffolding right above where Damien is being interviewed. He takes out the dagger in his position, and that makes me wonder what exactly he was planning on doing. Was he going to throw at Damien from up there and just hope that it hit its mark? And when he was hiding behind the scenes, was he planning to rush the stage and stab Damien, getting arrested for murder in order to save the world? Furthermore, I know they were strapped for a suitable attempt to kill him, but wouldn't attempting it in a public place like this be just as risky as trying to kill him at his home or at the embassy? In any case, right before the guy can get it done, he's spotted by Dean, who warns Damien, and loses his balance, falling off the scaffolding and getting his leg caught up in a cable. He's swung through the set, knocking over a lighting apparatus that starts a fire amidst a punch of paint cans, and is then swung into some burning, hanging sheets of plastic, which he gets tangled up in, and is slowly burned to death until the fire is put out by some technicians. That was clumsiness on his part, rather than anything that Damien did. And what's more, Damien finds his dagger, tipping him off that somebody who knows he's the Antichrist is gunning for him. Nice job, dumbass.

The group of deaths is rather confusing. One of the priests "lures" Damien to these ruins out in the middle of the English countryside, where two others are waiting to ambush him with their daggers. The weather starts to grow progressively worse and more ominous as they approach, letting you know that something's about to happen, and as the other two priests get into position, Damien's presence is signaled by some nearby sheep becoming spooked. He then walks into the ruin, and you can clearly see that it is Damien, and the priests pounce on him, one throwing a sack over him and the other grabbing and subduing him, allowing them to stab him repeatedly. They think they've done it, only for them to remove the sack and reveal that they just killed the priest that was supposed to lure Damien there. This is a major WTF? moment since this is the first time Damien has managed to do anything as mind-bending as this. The one priest remarks, "We're possessed!", which only adds to the confusion. Possessed by what? Damien? Is he somehow controlling them? I know he's the Antichrist and he can do whatever he wants but there was a consistency to his powers before this, which feels out of left-field. Anyway, when they've realized the grisly mistake they made, the priests try to flee from the ruins when a Satanic lightning storm kicks up around them but they run into the Rottweiler. Desperate to escape, they think they can do so through an old drainage hole but once they jump in, they see that it's been blocked off. The grating then slides shut on its own, trapping them inside, where I'm guessing they eventually die of starvation.

The deaths of the two remaining priests (not counting Father DeCarlo) occur during the foxhunt, where they use a combination of live and dead foxes to lure the hounds that Damien is following onto a bridge, away from everyone else. Trapping him on either side, they both move in with their daggers, but Damien spooks the horse that one is riding towards him (you'd think they would know by now that animals are frightened of him) and it rears up, trying to get away, eventually bucking him over the side of the bridge and he falls to his death in the shallow creek below. The other priest tries to do what his ally couldn't but, as he approaches, it quickly becomes clear that Damien is controlling the minds of the dogs, as they stare right at him and growl quietly. Damien calmly says, "Take him," and they charge the priest, who tries to run back to his truck. The dogs reach him before he can open the door and they swarm him, dragging him to the ground and ripping him to pieces off-camera, with Damien taking some of his blood and later using it to initiate Peter into his circle.

Like I said before, the section of the movie that's the most upsetting is when Damien's followers from all walks of life begin murdering baby boys across England. Again, none of the murders are shown in any graphic detail but just the thought of what's going on and how wide-spread it is, as well as what little you do see, is disturbing enough as it is. In fact, according to the Omen Legacy documentary, trying to come up with so many different deaths was so troubling that director Graham Baker supposedly paid Barnaby Holm, who plays Peter, money for any horrific idea he could come up with. The sequence begins with Harvey Dean orchestrating several deaths from his house while Barbara is off shopping with a friend of hers, with both of them taking their baby boys. When Barbara's friend heads for home, she's hit by a ball thrown by a couple of Damien's youngest followers and the stroller goes careening down the sidewalk, with the baby crying as his mother rushes after him. But, she's unable to stop him before he rolls into the street and gets hit by an oncoming car. Elsewhere, a priest follower of Damien's "baptizes" baby Alexander-David, killing him either by smothering or strangling him (the sounds of the life being choked out of the baby make me cringe). Even the freaking Boy Scouts are in on it, as two show up at a woman's apartment, intending to do their "good deed for the day." And at a hospital, a nurse turns the oxygen for some of the babies in the maternity ward. This sequence culminates in a scene near the end of the movie where Barbara, after having discovered the truth about Damien and her husband's involvement with him, is at home with her baby when the Rottweiler suddenly shows up at the window and snarls at her. After chasing the dog off, Barbara turns and sees a pretty horrific vision of her son in a mummified state, prompting her to back away in terror, but when the camera pans back down to the baby, it shows that he's just fine. However, Barbara is now under Damien's control and picks up the iron she's been using and approaches the baby with murderous intent. After a dissolve, Dean arrives home to attempt to flee the country with his family, only to find the aftermath of what's happened. He's then attacked by Barbara, who has a very unsettling, maniacal look on her face, and gets a hot iron stabbed into his left eye, killing him instantly.

As I said at the beginning, a more appropriate title for this movie would be The Anti-Climax because, if you go into this expecting a final, epic faceoff between good and evil, you're going to be very, very disappointed. This series is known for more ethereal, less blatant displays of evil (i.e. deaths being caused by unseen, supernatural forces and Damien's control over people rather than shooting beams of evil energy out of his eyes and the like) so you probably shouldn't expect a big battle between the reborn Messiah and the Antichrist like something you'd see in a comic book but, still, they should have tried to end Damien's story on a more satisfying note than this. Throughout the film, it does feel like there's going to be a confrontation at the end between Damien and Jesus Christ, who escapes the Antichrist's attempt to destroy him and is hidden away in an old ruin until he's ready to take back the world. When Kate is forced to lead Damien to the spot in exchange for Peter, and the boy ends up stabbed while Father DeCarlo is choked out, you are anticipating something as Damien runs into the ruins, shouting, "I'm here, Nazarene! Where are you?! Come out and face me!", and then closes in on the building where Jesus obviously is. And then, Kate stabs him in the back with the last dagger, prompting him to let out a loud mixture of deep bellowing and animal cries before he stumbles into the ruin, is faced with a glowing vision of Jesus, and gives one last bit of defiance before dying. What a weak way to end the trilogy. Again, you shouldn't be expecting an over the top, comic book-like battle, but you should get more than that, like Jesus himself striking Damien down, which would have been a great payoff to how much of a threat he was supposed to be towards Damien, as we were told throughout the entire movie. Plus, it would have made Jesus' rebirth seem vital to saving the world from Damien, as he was the one who was prophesized to do it while everybody else was always fated to fail, daggers or no daggers. By having Kate kill him, it severely hurts the impact and importance of the Second Coming and makes Damien seem weak, as, apparently, anybody could have killed him if they had the chance. It's so frustrating when you see potential like that in something that, as it played out in actuality, is a massive missed opportunity.

Unlike his score for Damien: Omen II, here Jerry Goldsmith composed completely original music and never made any references back to the score of the first film, including Ave Satani, or the second, for that matter. Here, the main theme for Damien himself, while still involving a chorus singing in Latin, is less ominous and horrific overall and takes a much more grand, sweeping approach since he's now at his full power. It's still an evil theme all-around but is less about menace and more about how the world is now mostly under the control of the Antichrist without their even realizing it. It's a very memorable, well-done piece and is re-orchestrated in many different ways throughout the film, purely through music in those cases. However, you still do have the trademark unsettling, distant chanting in some scenes like the buildups to or during some of the kills, such as the suicide of the first Ambassador, where you hear Latin singing that gets louder and louder as the reporters approach the door to his office, stopping right before they open it, and when the first priest dies his gruesome death while trying to assassinate Damien. It's during the sequence involving the deaths of the babies, however, where Goldsmith pulls out the stops in regards to music that makes your hair stand on end. The loud, sudden cries when the Boy Scouts show up at one woman's apartment and the nightmarish bit that you hear when Barbara sees that vision of her infant mummified in particular make those scenes all the more unsettling. Not every piece in this film's score has clouds hanging over it, though. In fact, Goldsmith took advantage of this film's more hopeful moments regarding the Second Coming and scored some of the most beautiful music in the entire series, next to his love theme for Robert and Kathy Thorn in the original. The piece for the scene where the stars come together to signal the rebirth of Christ builds and builds until it happens and the music climaxes with a glorious bit of vocalizing, but like the scene itself, this is only a precursor to the film's ending. Once Damien keels over in front of Christ, the most beautiful hymn you've ever heard in your life begins, with joyous singing and incredible music that, when combined with the images and the Bible passages heralding Jesus' triumphant return to Earth, makes it feel like nothing else than a wondrous celebration, that all of the evil that Damien has caused has really been swept away forever. As you can tell, I really enjoy the score for this film and feel that it's one of its best aspects, without a doubt. It's definitely a step up from his score for the second film, with an interesting note being that, like the film itself in its story, he returned to England to compose the score, just like he had for the original. Coincidence?

Like all of the films in the series, The Final Conflict isn't without any merits at all. Sam Neill gives a good performance as the adult Damien, the other actors, no matter how limited their individual roles may be, do fine as well, the return to England, as well as other elements in the story, gives it a bit of the same feel as the original, a couple of the death scenes are among the grisliest in the entire franchise, the section involving the mass murder of baby boys gives it a dark edge that not even the first film had, and the music is nothing short of phenomenal, making up for the rather lackluster score of the second film. However, the film's pace is mind-numbingly slow at points, some of the deaths are a bit too mind-bending and confusing, the priests who are attempting to kill Damien come across as clumsy and incompetent in the ways some of them die, and, most unforgiveable of all, the film's ending is very disappointing and is a missed opportunity in so many ways. I still stand by my decision in putting this film on the list I did of the worst and most disappointing sequels because, despite the good I do see in it, it's very uninspiring and not one I watch that often. In fact, Damien himself described it best when he was giving his thoughts on the new Thorn Industries commercial at the beginning: "Trite. Rhetorical. Cliched. Inane."

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