Review of The Final Conflict (1981)

25 Nov

The Final Conflict (1981) is a horror/thriller film, the third film in the The Omen film franchise.

Directed by Graham Baker (Alien Nation (1988), Beowulf (1999)).

Written by Andrew Birkin (Joan of Arc (1999), Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006)).

Starring: Sam Neill, Rossano Brazzi, Don Gordon, Lisa Harrow, Barnaby Holm, Mason Adams, Dick Anthony Williams and others.

Once again we follow Damien Thorn, who now is 32 and the CEO of Thorn Industries, one of the most powerful corporations in the world. Don’t be fooled by thinking that the movie is set in the future. It is set in 1982, so since 1976 when Damien was about 5 he has grown up really fast.

After getting hypnotised by a dog, the US ambassador to Great Britain commits the most elaborate suicide ever and guess who gets appointed in his place? Our friendly neighbourhood Damien. So the movie is basically about his rise to power, while a bunch of people try to get in his way, only to suffer horrible deaths.

It is revealed through concrete scientific evidence that some sort of star alignment crap suggests the second coming of Christ. Not on Damien’s watch, he’s going to kill every child born on a specific date. Oh, but guess what, his right hand man has one of them Christ-children, so we get a subplot that matters very little.

The scenes where the astronomers are figuring out how stars mean that they should bring back crucifixions, introduces one of my big disappointments. The score suddenly contains some distinctly 80’s sci-fi themes. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as it is not mixed in with the classic, huge Jerry Goldsmith chanting parts, that are common in The Omen series. It’s just two clashing styles.

The themes and implications the movie brings up are quite interesting, sadly they’re not really explored as much as one would like. You have to think of how you would act if you knew you are destined to be a great, powerful man and something threatens this. You can identify with Damien’s paranoia, his ability to not view himself as entirely evil, since his path of life was chosen for him. I don’t want to say that his actions are reprehensible or character not despicable, but there’s a fine line to walk when your protagonist is the villain.

The movie is in a way a precursor to slasher movies, where they make sequels that progressively glorify the villain, who is the returning character on another adventure, and makes the innocents less innocent, less interesting and less likable. We don’t want the evil to be victorious, but we have started to care about Damien and he has almost become a tragic figure. To be fair, he has a lot more personality than the average slasher villain, but the connection could be made.

And yes, the good guys here come off as silly and worthless. And when we see Damien walking around, creepily charming the pants off of everyone, it is hard not to take the wrong side. If good is so boring and uninspiring, why not root for evil? That’s a fine question, that, sadly, I don’t think the movie asks intentionally.

Damien also isn’t built up as all that evil. His rise to power is quite slow. He is just a CEO of a big company, but he doesn’t seem like the most evil one even amongst real-life ones. He has a romantic interest, sure, he’s a bit rough with her in the bed and makes her son his right hand ‘young’ man. But that just doesn’t seem that bad. He’s like some mafia godfather, who doesn’t even do his own dirty work most of the time.

The worst part is probably the ending. It is well built up and it seems there will be this epic Good vs. Evil stand-off, but it’s the most anticlimactic thing imaginable. It’s just nothing, there’s no spectacle, nothing. The Omen ‘trilogy’ ends with a faint stabbing sound.

The best part about it is Sam Neill’s performance as Damien. He is really good, exuding dark charisma. Managing to look like a youthful millionaire playboy, but at the time pulling off the sinister undercurrents of the son of satan, now fully aware of his power and purpose.

Overall, I would say that the previous movie was more reliant on the novelty deaths, so if nothing else, this is better than that and Sam Neill is awesome. Still, not a worthy sequel to the original. Not recommended.

“Last night I semi-raped your mother. We are going to have so much fun today.”

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