107 min., 1978
Directed by Don Taylor
It’s not easy being a teenager, even if you’re the Antichrist
* * *
I figured since the last one was so terrible that this couldn’t be much worse. Apparently low expectations worked out for me in the end. Not that this is some piece of cinema gold mind you, but it’s definitely more tolerable than last time.
Damien Thorn (Jonathan Scott-Taylor) is fast approaching his 13th birthday, which is important because besides being an official teenager he also has a little appointment with destiny (being the Antichrist and all). With the devil as father of the year (think about it, where is God when all his “children” are being systematically killed?), Damien’s secret shall remain safe until the right time arrives. He is surrounded by “protectors” everywhere, even at the Military school he attends with his cousin Mark (Lucas Donat), and anyone who even gets a glimmer of the truth ends up dead (accidentally of course). Will someone finally stop the son of the devil before it’s too late? (And what the hell is up with the death crow?)
Story-wise, it’s actually not too bad. We experience Damien’s struggle to find his identity. All kids go through that, so even though we are dealing with the supernatural it’s not hard to actually sympathize with his inner turmoil. Jonathan Scott-Taylor does a decent job with what he was given, he just wasn’t given much to really stretch. The transition from confused to horrified to downright relishing his new powers was way too abrupt. The entire time (including the first film) we are led to believe that he actually kind of knows already so when we get to the big reveal and he’s shocked it doesn’t really play out well.
The acting at least was better this time. Don’t get too excited though, there’s still not much here to praise. William Holden as Damien’s uncle Richard was far better than Gregory Peck. The unfortunate part is that Holden doesn’t really do well in the more emotional scenes, it was a bit awkward. I did however enjoy his more natural scenes, he has a way of exuding warmth as a father figure that I wanted to give him a big hug. (Creepy? Perhaps.) The best performance is from Lance Henriksen (the Pumpkinhead series, Scream 3 and perhaps his best known role as Bishop in the Alien series) who is Damien’s platoon sergeant at military school. His stone-faced indifference that masks his concern for the child is outstanding–natural, chilling and there are far too few scenes involving him.
What could have been a pretty decent movie was unfortunately plagued with idiotic choices. We start out with a crow that is supposed to symbolize impending doom, but the only sense I got was “Seriously? That’s the best you can do?” Zooming in on his eyeball to signify that someone is going to die (drum roll please) is like telling a cripple he can’t walk. Mercifully that crow idea was inexplicably forgotten and we just keep having “accidents” instead. The worst “accident” has to be when the mannequin (I mean woman) gets hit by a truck and jumps up over the cab to smack into the truck. Yes, we do have a supernatural storyline here, but that doesn’t actually change the laws of physics when you clearly have a human death. (I won’t even mention the amazing crow who can peck someone’s eyes out just by tangling its claws in their hair.)
What else could possibly ruin what could have been a good film….can you guess? What passes for a sad excuse of a score. Again, it’s way too LOUD. It’s so busy competing with what’s happening on screen that I can only imagine Jerry Goldsmith (the bastard responsible for “original music”) was never given a compliment in his life. Maybe he’s a frustrated actor who craves attention and figures he’ll just steal the scenes by overpowering them with his awesomeness. Except it’s not so much awesome as it is inappropriate. Using a choir chanting monk-like nonsense to emphasize the religious connection would have been fine in small doses, but of course this isn’t about small doses, is it? Make it loud, overtake the scene and for god’s sake keep repeating it–that ought to show all those bullies from elementary school!
What’s so frustrating is that this really had potential. We already know who Damien is, we already know people are going to die–it’s the actual story of Damien’s humanity that we get a glimpse of here. He may have been born evil, but he is still human and like all teens he still has to go through all that hell (pun intended!). With better acting and a more interesting view this is still better than the first installment. Although the only thing I’m really frightened of is the thought that they might use the same type of score in number 3!Have You Read...?