Damien: Omen II (1978)

(On Cable TV, August 2017) Laughing at deaths in horror movies isn’t necessarily a sign of psychopathy. As Damien: Omen II shows, it can be a perfectly valid reaction to over-the-top filmmaking. Let’s not pretend that this sequel is a vast step down for the series: The original The Omen certainly had its share of overdone moments and aggressive cues: its decapitation sequence remains a case study in how nominally terrifying material can become risible through pathos overload. Damien seems to have retained most of the wrong lessons from its predecessor in a very loose follow-up: Its death scenes are just as ridiculous, and its structure boils down to a series of loops in which secondary characters try to warn the protagonist about the evil of Damien, only to die horribly. It gets amusing, then ridiculous, then tiresome, then annoying. While I still like some elements of the film (giving the lead role to William Holden as a visibly elderly man, for instance, or the final twist in which the true allegiance of the wife is revealed), much of it is sensationalistic tripe with a blaring soundtrack that will tell you when you should be scared. The late-seventies atmosphere makes Damien slightly more interesting now than it was upon release, but that’s not quite enough to make it an essential viewing other than following up on the original.

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