Omen III: The Final Conflict (1981)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2008-03-24 13:56

Written by: Andrew Brikin
Directed by: Graham Baker

Reviewed by: Brett G.

"You have won nothing..."

The Omen series almost seems to be forgotten in the annals of horror, as the original film is massively popular and still gets tons of well-deserved praise. However, it seems as if the sequels are often ignored. In the case of many horror series, the sequels are either notoriously bad (The Exorcist II) or infamous in their interminability (pretty much every major slasher series). With The Omen, it seems as if the two sequels are just solid enough to warrant being forgotten. The second film, Damien: The Omen II, is a very well done sequel that essentially mimics the winning formula of its predecessor. The third film, The Final Conflict: Omen III, changes things up a bit by presenting an adult Damien who is fully aware of his destiny and is bent on world domination.

The basic setup of this film is excellent, if not epic: Damien has maneuvered his way through the political ladder and has found himself appointed as Ambassador to the Court of St. James, the same position his adopted father held in the original film. However, all is not well for the Anti-Christ, as a second Star of Bethlehem has appeared in the sky, signaling the second coming of Christ. Sensing this, Damien sets out to kill every male child born in England on the morning of the starís appearance. All the while, a priest named Father DeCarlo has discovered Damienís unholy lineage and, armed with the daggers of Meggido, sets out to destroy him. Meanwhile, Damien has also become involved with a journalist, Kate Reynolds; furthermore, he has taken her son, Peter, under his wing.

The basic plot as outlined here sounds pretty much foolproof and represents a logical conclusion to The Omen cycle. Damienís plan to hunt down the babies while fending off DeCarloís priests is tightly conceived, as the two narratives merge together quite seamlessly and lead to some fairly memorable death sequences. However, I canít help but feel that something is missing from the film, as it ultimately fails to live up to its epic setup. Perhaps it was due to my expectations the first time I saw the film, but Iíve always been left a little disappointed by The Omen III. This is not to say that the film is bad by any means, but it just comes up feeling mediocre when it had the potential to be so much more. This is probably due to a bit of bait and switch that occurs at the end of the film. Without spoiling too much, the film seems to be building to an epic conflict that never truly occurs; thus, the film doesnít feel complete.

Like its predecessors, this installment is well done from a technical standpoint. Graham Bakerís direction is nothing to write home about, but it is competent enough. Composer Jerry Goldsmith also returns with another epic score thatís worthy of the series. All in all, it looks and sounds like an Omen film should. The effects and death scenes have always been a major component of these films, and this film follows suit with some fairly memorable scenes, including a booby trap sequence that anticipates the Saw films that would be released two decades later. Most of the filmís more brutal deaths are kept off-screen, as the film wonít go so far as to actually show the newborn babiesí deaths. Just the very idea of it, however, manages to give the film a creepy vibe. The same can also be said for an absolutely brutal sex scene between Damien and Kate. All told, the film certainly has its moments; however, itís not able to fully sustain the momentum of these scenes. From a narrative perspective, the film is full of peaks and valleys.

Any review of this film would be remiss to ignore Sam Neilís performance as an adult Damien. Indeed, this is one of the brighter spots of the film, as Neil comes across as diabolical, cunning, conniving, sincere, and stunningly fragile over the course of the film. His monologue when he speaks to his father in the presence of the Christ statue is one of the best moments in the entire series, let alone the film itself. Ultimately, Neilís performance renders Damien a bit human, which is a surprising turn for a series that has presented the Anti-Christ as a somewhat remorseless entity. Without Neil, I fear that the film would have lost its center, as he without a doubt holds the narrative together with a charismatic performance that deserves recognition.

In the end, The Omen III isnít a terrible film by any means; instead, it just seems to have trouble maintaining an intensity and interest throughout the entire narrative. It has an excellent (and even unnerving) setup that should have been absolutely epic. Unfortunately, the film falls short because it ends up feeling too intimate. Perhaps this was the intent, but when weíre dealing with apocalyptic subject matter, I would like to see a climax more befitting of the setup. Still, if youíve seen the first two Omen films, you have to see this one out of obligation. If there is any solace to be taken in this film, itís the fact that it doesnít represent a monumental drop in quality that many horror series inevitably experience. While itís a bit disappointing, it has just enough to hold it together. Also, I should also note that there was a made-for-television sequel to this, Omen IV: The Awakening. That film is a spin-off of the original series, but manages to maintain a semblance of continuity, so to complete the story, youíll need to track it down as well.

Omen III can now be found again on DVD in most places for a cheap price. The original edition is supposedly out of print, but Iíve seen it around lately for less than $5 at some local stores. The quality is well done for the most part: the film is presented in its original aspect ratio, and the image is fairly pristine. The film shows its age at times, but itís more than adequate. The 2.0 Dolby Digital soundtrack is also clear and undistorted. Itís also available as part of the various Omen collections out there as well (the latest set features all five filmsóeven the 2006 remake). If you want them all in one shot, youíll end up owning part three anyway; however, if youíre just out to watch the series for completionís sake, I recommend that you simply Rent it!

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