Reviewing: Damien

The Omen was one of the first horror movies I saw.  I can’t remember if I saw it in the theaters or if I saw it on HBO.  One of the things I loved about my parents is that they didn’t try shielding me from good movies even if they were scary and had me checking my scalp.

When I grew older I watched all three movies again.  The two sequels are decent.  They had very good casts who helped elevate poor scripts.  But it’s still the first movie that  is the masterpiece.  The only problem I had was some moments in the score.  The chanting is fantastic, but there are moments of cheesy horror movie scoring.  If they music would have played it straight, the movie would have been strengthened.  With a straight score in some of the scenes, it could have been more mysterious as to whether Damien is who we think he is.

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Bradly James’ Damien as a war photographer courtesy of A&E

In the new A&E series, Damien, that young child is now a war photographer. The series posits itself as the only sequel to the original movie.  Using some sort of Marvel sliding timeline, Damien starts off not knowing much about his past besides the fact he lost his parents at an early age.  The series deals him coming to grips with his past.  Warning, spoilers after the jump.

In the first episode, Damien unlocks his repressed memories.  And that is a lot to deal with.  You killed your mom and your dad died trying to kill you.  Plus, you realize that anyone who got in your way in the last 30 years gets hurt or killed.  It is also a killer to relationships.  For most actors, this would be near impossible to play.  It’s not impossible for Bradley James.  He is the main reason to watch this show.  So comically and dramatically brilliant as on Arthur on Merlin, he again shines here even with the lack of comedic material.  I never found myself laughing at his character even when the plot slips off the rails.  In fact, he makes you root for the son of Satan.

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Bradley James’ Damien courtesy of A&E

This is mainly because the plot arc of the first season deals with not only him coming to grips with his new found identity but also coming to grips with the people who have known all along.  The show is brilliant when it talks about how different groups, including the Vatican, can gain from his presence.  His life has been administered from a rich conglomerate that looks to use him as a puppet.  The Vatican is hesitant to do anything because it’s hard to give up power after 2000 years and his appearance can go either way for them.   The best of all these characters is Barbara Hershey’s Ann Rutledge.  She is devilishly creepy (and still quite attractive).  You never can quite tell if she is a true servant or a would-be puppet master.

 

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Barbara Hershey’s Ann Rutledge courtesy of A&E

 

The show suffers from not having an endgame.  This plot can literally drag as long as the ratings let it.  Some episodes come off as The Omen Meets Final Destination.  Most characters besides Ann and Damien are severely underdeveloped.  The show does have a lot of gore and most of it is of high quality especially for a TV show.  Yet, too often, it is gratuitous.

The major problem this show is that it never really found an audience and it doesn’t really know how.  At times, it’s a brilliant character study especially when it shows Damien as a good person.  That’s a fascinating concept, the Antichrist as a good person who unfortunately couldn’t choose his dad.  It’s also sometimes a brilliant conspiracy show, especially when trying to figure out Rutledge’s motives and that of the law firm she works for.  It’s less successful when it’s a cop show investigating all the “coincidences” that occur around Damien Thorne.  It’s even worse when it just choose to be a horror show.  Again, it comes off as a cheap Final Destination at its best and a really bad X-Files at its worse.

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Barbara Hershey and Bradly James courtesy of A&E

So do I recommend it?  That’s a mild yes.  It does pay loving tribute to the original film often with clips that help enhance the plot.  When it focuses on the characters, its reaches great heights.  This is because the two leads, James and Hershey, elevate the material. They alone are why I recommend the show.  They are that good.

But…

Is it a one season show?  Ratings have been low especially in comparison to Bates Motel.  Plus, with the ending of the first season (which mimics a great shot from the original movie) the plot has nowhere to go but bigger.  Bigger means more money is needed and will A&E approve this?  While the first season can be self-contained, it does end with Damien still alive so it’s not wrapped up.

I really hope it comes back, mainly because of the two leads. I would like to see it focus more on the character driven plots than the horror/action plots.  Hopefully, its number isn’t up.

And then it was canceled.  I wrote this last Wednesday and Friday night it was canceled.

I really can’t blame A&E.  Ratings drive shows. Because this show sometimes didn’t know what its audience want and tried to give them different things (horror, crime, character study) it never truly found its groove.  Of course, a #savedamien campaign has started.  As much as I would like to see James Bradly and Barbara Hersey reprise these characters, I really don’t see that happening.  I would like to see show creator, Glen Mazzara do what Joss Wheadon did when Buffy ended: go to comics.  A comics publisher such as Dark Horse or IDW could allow Mazzara to tell the story how he wanted without having to worry about budgets as he would on a TV show.

 

One thought on “Reviewing: Damien

  1. Pingback: ComicCon-ing: Very Early Pensacon Preview | Nola Nerd Couple

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