Could the Antichrist rise to power through the American political system? One man with a legion of unthinking acolytes deliberately attempting to foster division amongst others as a means to achieving his own selfish ends? That’s the fanciful scenario featured in Graham Baker’s horror sequel, one that trips itself up from the get-go by breaking the franchise timeline; if Damien was five in 1976, and somehow 11 in 1978, it’s pretty remarkable that nobody notices something amiss when he swiftly becomes the 34 year old Sam Neill model in 1981. But that’s not the only flaw in the design of this odd conclusion to the Omen trilogy, as always, the devil is in the small print…
‘Are you familiar with the Book of Hebron?’ Damien asks here; even if you are, you’ll have a stiff cramming session required on biblical prophecies to figure out exactly where the final conflict is coming from. We start with a lovely close-up of a giant mechanical drill, used to unearth the seven daggers of Megiddo with which Father DeCarlo (South Pacific’s Rozanno Brazzi) and his seven monks intend to pin-cushion Damien. That’s already a very different scenario from the machine-orientated splashy stunt-deaths that powered the first two films; such teased out mayhem went on to star in the Final Destination franchise. Instead, the monks are the aggressors and Damien plays defence, somehow using his repertoire of chanting, devil dogs and mind-control to save his own skin.
So Omen III deviates from the previous films, missing out on the parental (or adoptive parental) concern that tied it into The Exorcist, but going off in a fresh geo-political direction. ‘I wouldn’t want to feed the White House false information,’ Damien smirks after committing exactly the sin he describes, but widening the scope out to a global arena raises some questions. Damien’s coming is heralded on Speaker’s Corner by ‘an economic crisis…a Great Recession’ which sounds about right, but the London that Damien arrives in as US ambassador seems lush and prosperous. The removal of the previous ambassador, who wires up a shotgun to blow his own head off in Heath Robinson/Rube Goldberg style in front of Ruby Wax, is probably the best shock death here, (the tapping leg under the table really sells it); Damien’s actual work don’t extend further than traditional US Ambassador duties (appearing on chat shows, fox-hunting and sleeping with BBC reporters). We’re told that Damien has been compared to ‘a young John F Kennedy ‘ which seems accurate since it would be hard to compare him with an old one, but soon journohack Kate (Lisa Harrow) is seduced by Damien and offering up her own son to be his Satanic disciple.
Original director Richard Donner returns as producer here, but script cuts make a nonsense of the story; we waste ages with Damien’s sidekick Harvey Dean (Don Gordon) who lies to Damien that his own son was born outside the time period that the Second Coming of Christ might have happened. Damien orders an army of in-uniform nurses, vicars, mechanics and boy-scouts to murder every baby born in Britain during this period, leading to a series of public information film/first five minutes of Casualty baby murders, including one poor nipper squashed by a steaming hot iron. It’s not mentioned in the film that the real Christ child has actually been born safely elsewhere, but fortunately Jesus Christ himself arrives for the climax to sort things out and smite Damien down, and not a moment too soon. Omen III: The Final Conflict is one daft addition to the demonology cycle, with the epic Jerry Goldsmith score and Neill’s saturnine looks just about overcoming some wildly wayward conception; Armageddon rarely seemed like such cheesy fun as it does here.