Friday, November 8, 2013

Satanic Panic: OMEN IV: THE AWAKENING (1991)

For this October, I felt a revisit of THE OMEN series on blu-ray was not only necessary, but mandatory. Most folks would not have a problem with this series put into the "Classic Horror" category, with even the second sequel rating high marks from critics and fans alike. It's surprising that with that popularity, we never got a late-'80s low-rent sequel with lots of splattery demises courtesy of Screaming Mad George. You know you'd rent that. Instead it took a full decade for a third sequel to be spawned.

Normally you'd think this sort of made-for-TV sequel would be too mediocre to even be worth mentioning, but this, the first attempt at kickstarting a Fox TV series was directed by Dominique Othenin-Girard and is about as legitimate a sequel as SCANNERS III (1991). Oh yeah, you heard me. Othenin-Girard, incase you don't remember, was the man who almost redeemed himself for HALLOWEEN 5 (1989) with NIGHT ANGEL (1990), a film that was butchered by the MPAA and has never seen the light of day in its uncut form.

In this sequel-slash-reboot a young, infertile couple Gene and Karen York (Michael Woods, Faye Grant) adopt a baby girl from a Catholic orphanage who know that the bloodline of the child runs back to the supreme evil Damien Thorn. Like good Christians, the nuns decide to keep that minor bit of information to themselves. Of course this comes at a price with an eclipse of the sun, crosses flipping upside-down and the younger nun taking a beating from the Mother Superior who suddenly has a heart attack as soon as the demon baby is out of sight. Whether or not this is due to the satanic evil of the child or just god's way of saying "what the hell are you people doing?" is not made clear.

Things get wonky right from the start as the new parents decide to throw a party to celebrate their newfound parenthood and make sure to invite the one black couple they know, who get plenty of random close-ups. This is presumably Fox's clumsy attempt to appeal to a target demographic. During the baby shower the hellish horror heightens to a fever pitch when mom goes to kiss baby Delia, and comes away with a scratched face! I will now pause so that you, the gentle reader, might catch your breath. Of course since this is an OMEN film, there must be a coincidental explanation for every act of unbridled evil. This situation is quickly explained away by the family doctor as a diaper pin malfunction. Then the filmmakers find themselves in the awkward position of having to explain why exactly they are using safety pins a good 30 years after the advent of self-adhesive, disposable diapers!

It's like writer Brian Taggert (also responsible for 1988s franchise-killer POLTERGEIST III) thought to himself "I have kids... what drives me crazy about them?" and decides that those things are pretty much as if Mr. Cypher is extending his crown of thorns around their tiny heads. This line of reasoning constantly gets Taggert writing himself into a corner until finally just having to cut away to another scene. Oh but I'm getting ahead of things. This movie starts out dumber than a sack of hammers then ramps up the loony with psychotic abandon. Stupid and crazy. That is what we here at VJ consider to be a successful film. Come to think of it, it sounds like my dating demographic.

Interestingly while Damien would completely lose his shit when he came within spitting distance of a church, Delia is totally cool with it until she gets dipped in the auga santa. Then, crosses fall upside-down and members of the clergy suffer heart attacks at the drop of a demonic chorus, but the terror doesn't end there! In one scene people (at a party AGAIN) react in utter horror when they find that one of Delia's Barbie dolls has bite marks in it that are about 1/8th of an inch deep! Oh yeah, we aren't fucking around here! This little brat is eeeeeevil! Better still, now in first grade, Delia finds herself at odds with a bully Jerome who steals her lunchbox, stomps on her PB and J and smacks her in the face! Oh heeeellz no! You did not just do that to the Princess of Darkness! Sure enough, Delia ain't having none of that crap and clobbers him in the face with her now empty lunchbox. Cue ominous chanting...

Of course this first-grade fracas causes Jerome's parents to completely fly off the handle and raise such a ruckus that Delia puts the whammy on Jerome's dad causing him to floor it out of their driveway into a truck that bloodlessly removes his head. Not content with simply smacking Jerome in the face and forcing him to spend the rest of his life fatherless, Delia decides that she's going to publicly challenge the vertigo afflicted Jerome to climb a ladder until he gets so scared that he pees his pants! Seriously, if that is not the epitome of infernal evil drawn up from the *ahem* bowels of hell, well I just don't know what is.

But wait, there's more! Delia's got a new nanny Jo (Ann Hearn), and she is a new age hippy who seems to know that eeeeevil lurks at the threshold. In one gutbusting scene, Jo shows Karen (who is starting to suspect that Delia is eeeeeevil) her new age hippy book. Jo opens up the book and starts cooing "it's the Book of Light... it's full of healing... and crystals..." Delia grabs the book and screams "...and stupid junk!" and throwing it to the floor. Holy crap, that kid is EEEEEEVIL! As if that wasn't shocking enough, horror of horrors, all of the nanny's "life crystals" have turned black! At this point I was so affected by this movie that I was on my knees invoking the lord. My prayer went something like "Holy jeezus! My sides are killing me!"

Not content to let that be the most absurd freaking thing in the film, the nanny takes a shower only to discover that someone has drawn an upside-down cross on her bathroom mirror! Her jaw slacks in abject terror and she realizes that she must take drastic measures! Like... a fair!

No, really. In order to get some more insight, she takes Delia to a new age fair to have her aura photographed. Seriously, I could not make this up. Of course Delia flips the fuck out (ummmm... yeah, that's actually totally understandable) and "accidentally" burns the entire fair to the ground. I'm sorry, but I think quite possibly the funniest thing I've ever seen in my wasted life is a new age hippy on fire running past a burning fair booth with a sign that reads "Aquarian Truth Center". That's just hilarious. And that isn't even the half of it! Karen hires a private eye (Michael Lerner) who uses clowns to run distraction ops, has visions of a zombie baby jeezus fetus and discovers some of the most ridiculous crap imaginable about the nun from the orphanage turning from prostitution into a cult leader in the midwest who dances with poisonous snakes. Whaaaa??

*This Paragraph Contains Spoilers* We also discover the fact that Delia is not the antichrist but her new baby brother iswhat?! We get some claptrap about the fact that Delia is carrying the seed of the antichrist which needed to be implanted into the embryo carried by Karen who suddenly finds herself pregnant. Remember what I said about Taggert writing himself into a corner? Case in point. Of course the doctor is one of them which may explain why nobody notices that the infernal infant has a huge "666" on the palm of his hand! Once mom discovers this, she understandably stabs the doctor and screams "that freak will never rule, 'cause I'm gonna kill him!" Lady, if more mothers were like you, the world would be a better place.

OMEN film series producer Harvey Bernhard had an idea for this to be the beginning of a new trilogy of TV movies. Needless to say, that didn't happen. Like many of Fox's ambitious TV movies, it was met with opinions ranging from apathy to hostility in spite of coming in fourth in the ratings for the first airing. I'm not sure why Gordon McGill's 1982 novel "The Omen IV: Armageddon" was not used as a basis for the TV movie, but I'm assuming that it basically came down to money. Fox wanted it cheap and while it is obvious that this film's budget is so low that it would make Roger Corman tear-up in pain, it's still a lot more fun than it should be. As hysterically ridiculous as Taggart's script is, Othenin-Girard actually does the best he can with it. The camera set-ups are professional with a nice eye for composition. He also tries to get the most spectacularly melodramatic acting out of his cast and when combined with the whack-job script, propel this stinker to a whole new level. I can't really say this isn't a waste of time, but I also can't say I didn't laugh my ass off for ninety minutes straight at some of the most preposterous and petty examples of satanic evil I've ever seen on film. I like to think of this as the prequel to SCANNERS III (1991) which shows Helena (Liliana Komorowska) as a child. Trust me, it totally works.

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