Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Recent Watches: Omen IV: The Awakening (1991)

Damien Thorn – the Antichrist, the Son of the Devil, the Great Beast – is dead. Yet even franchises are sometimes more immortal then demonic off-spring. 20th Century Fox’s then-fledgling television network was looking for viewers. The channel hoped to utilize Fox’s vast library of recognizable titles by producing made-for-TV sequels to popular films. Because of producer Harvey Bernhard’s undying devotion to “The Omen” series, he made sure the devil child saga was the first series selected for this treatment. And the primary antagonist being dead wasn’t going to stop him either. “Omen IV: The Awakening” premiered on Fox on May 20, 1991. The sequel failed to revive the series and prematurely ended Fox’s plans for film-based TV movies.

Ignoring the Second Coming of Christ at the end of “The Final Conflict,” “The Awakening” instead follows the original series in broad strokes. Virginian congressman Gene Park and his wife Karen are unable to conceive. They adopt an infant girl, which they name Delia. Years later, as Gene builds towards a presidential campaign, Karen begins to worry that there’s something wrong with Delia. The girl acts coldy and cruelly, has no friends, and frightens animals. Soon, strange deaths begin to follow the girl. After Karen becomes pregnant, she becomes increasingly disturbed by Delia’s behavior. Further investigation leads Karen to believe that her adopted daughter may be the off-spring of Damien Thorn, a second generation Antichrist.

By re-focusing the story on a parent worrying about their child, “Omen IV” could’ve built upon the original’s ideas about parental anxieties. Instead, a total lack of subtly turns “The Awakening” into the hokiest of horror sequels. Delia is obviously evil from the moment we meet her, starring blankly and darkly. She acts like a sociopath in every scene. So her mom’s concerns aren’t common anxieties, they’re completely founded. Meanwhile, the movie shoves dime store horror down your throat at every turn. Inverted crosses are tossed around with abandon, placing one on-screen whenever something creepy is suppose to happen. (Of course, any informed Catholic could tell you that the inverted cross isn’t a Satanic symbol at all.) The musical score is also seriously overdone, every moment emphasized with obnoxious stings and uninspired themes. “Ave Satani” is surprisingly only used three times, Jonathan Sheffer’s generic and cartoonish score doing the heavy lifting.

“The Awakening’s” attempts to update “The Omen” for the early nineties is also hilariously awkward. Delia’s nanny, Jo, is into all kinds of New Age bullshit. She wears a crystal around her neck, rambling on about its purity and positive energy. This enrages Delia, causing all of Jo’s crystal to turn black. Her friend Noah, played by Jim Byrnes and his awesome mullet, claims he can see energy fields and gets some serious bad vibes from Delia. Later, the nanny drags the little girl to a “psychic fair,” where Delia has her aura photographed. The black, squiggly lines floating around Delia in her Polaroid is enough to confirm Jo’s suspicion. I’m not sure why screenwriter Brian Taggert felt the need to incorporate hokum and pseudoscience like this into the already ridiculous “Omen” mythology. Would the ominous warnings of crazed priest be too tame by 1991 standards?

“The Omen” series’ trademark of graphic and disturbing death scenes, in retrospect, makes it an odd choice for a network television continuation. “The Awakening” struggles to find nifty ways to dispatch people. Delia’s earliest evil act is to whack a bully with a lunchbox. Later, she strands him up a ladder, causing the boy to wet his pants. When the violence actually comes, most of it is kept off-screen, as you’d expect. A car crashes into the lift of a tow truck, resulting in the driver’s decapitation. A snake-handler gets bitten by a viper, dying of venom poisoning in a hospital bed. A private detective is struck by a rogue wrecking ball, his body transformed into a flailing dummy at death. But the most ridiculous death scene is reserved for Jo. After being suddenly blinded by Delia’s evil, she’s chased through the house by the devil’s cuddly Rottweiler companion. This dog pushes Jo out a window, where see lands on a playground roundabout. The score punctuates the death by playing some carnival music. I get that grotesque gore was off the table for the TV movie but surely they could’ve done better then this.

Further sinking “Omen IV” is a set of awful performances. Faye Grant stars as Karen. Grant’s performance is always pitched a little pass believable. As the story progresses, and her character becomes more upset, Grant’s acting gets more and more silly. The scene that flatly explains Delia’s connection to Damien in great detail is especially goofy, Grant acting with all the subtly of Miss Piggy. Asia Vieira plays Delia. Vieira’s key to acting evil is to stare ahead blankly and declare mildly sinister statements in a blank monotone. Ann Hearn as Jo the nanny is incredibly irritating. Really, the only memorable performance in the movie is Michael Lerner as the private detective that slowly uncovers the Satanic connection. Lerner is the kind of character that can spin shit into gold. He huffs and puffs as the sleazy P.I., acting absurdly but in a way that’s enjoyable, rather then laughable.

Maybe I’m being too hard on “Omen IV: The Awakening.” Maybe I’m expecting too much from a cheap cash-in sequel released straight to television, that blatantly recalls the previous films with half the budget and none of the skill. Yet even the previous lackluster “Omen” sequels had more to offer then this dumb flick. Even the unintentional laughter it provides doesn’t justify the movie’s existence. Feeling exactly like the cheap TV movie of the week it is, “The Awakening” makes the clear case that “The Omen” franchise should’ve died with Damien. [4/10]

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