Omen III: The Final Conflict Review

It would be nice to claim that The Final Conflict, third of the "Omen" films, is a misunderstood masterpiece, but such a statement would be stretching the truth almost as thin as the film's plot. It's not nearly as bad as some critics would have you believe but nor is it particularly good.

Sam Neill, in a commanding performance that is among his best work, plays the now grown-up Damien Thorn; as you may remember, Damien is the product of Satan's dalliance with a jackal, was adopted by the US Ambassador to Britain and has spent his formative years cutting a swathe through the list of Hollywood veterans. Now, he is the head of a global company and getting ever closer to becoming the most powerful man in the world. There is a small problem however. A group of monks, headed by Rossano Brazzi - late of South Pacific and presumably reaching the nadir of his career - have formed a secret society dedicated to getting rid of him with the daggers of Megido, recovered from the inferno which destroyed the Thorn Museum at the end of part two. Luckily for them, Damien suddenly receives the job of US Ambassador to England and becomes a considerably more public figure and thus, one might think, an easier target. But as you know very well, getting rid of the son of Satan is easier said than done...

The film starts rather well with Jerry Goldsmith's majestic main theme playing over scenes of the recovery of the daggers and then one of the best exploding heads in film history - for exploding head connoisseurs, it's nearly up there with Dick Smith's work on Scanners and on a par with Tom Savini's in Maniac. But then the plot begins and the viewer suddenly realises that a lot of time is going to be spent on a tedious romance between Damien and TV reporter Lisa Harrow and that the amusingly bizarre killings are to be few and far between. Damien Omen 2, the best of the series in my view, understood that the only purpose of the films is to be entertainingly melodramatic and very gory and delivered the goods in spades, but The Final Conflict demonstrates a lack of imagination. There's a pretty good death by fire and plastic wrap but then we're left with stabbing, burial alive and death by pack of hounds. Come on guys, even the average Friday the 13th instalment manages better than that. The second half largely consists of an astonishingly tasteless series of baby killings as Damien tries to smoke out the "Second Coming" of Christ, some of them apparently played for laughs in an appalling misjudgement on the part of the director. There's also the protracted realisation by the incredibly dim TV journalist that Damien might not be Mr Right after all, but you can safely fast-forward all of that as it leads to one of the most laughable and inconsistent endings in the history of horror films.

What makes it worth watching is the excellence of Sam Neill. He's an actor whose sheer presence can energise even the most turgid film and he makes Damien both charming enough to be convincing as a successful politician and sinister enough to persuade you of the evil in his soul. None of the rest of the cast are in his league; Don Gordon is particularly weak as his henchman and you keep expecting Rossano Brazzi to begin a rendition of "Some Enchanting Evening". Lisa Harrow isn't bad but has little to do until the last third of the film. As her son, Barnaby Holm is almost as annoying as the child in House By The Cemetery but, thankfully, doesn't have much dialogue.

The biggest problem with the film is the somnolent direction by Graham Baker. He doesn't seem to have any idea of pacing and he makes a mess of the set-piece deaths because he forgets to include any suspense or dramatic tension. One scene, in which the daffy disciples try to kill Damien and end up murdering one of their colleagues is farcical, and even the more inventive moments like the death in the TV studio lack any real edge of horror. Baker shows us horrible mutilation but there's no real attempt to shock or disturb. In this respect we should be grateful to the superb music score for any residual excitement that the film contains.

To be fair, the film looks very nice with some very atmospheric images of the British countryside, although even these pale beside the similar scenes in Witchfinder General or Straw Dogs. There's also some very obvious use of day for night in scenes which might have been better achieved in the studio. The only moment when things seem to come together as they should do - and did in the two previous films in the series - is the impressive scene where Damien addresses the "Disciples of the Watch"; powerfully written and good enough to suggest that the whole movie could have been a hell of a lot better. Andrew Birkin, the screenwriter responsible for this mess, wrote three excellent TV plays about J.M.Barrie called "The Lost Boys" so it's fair to suggest that either the script was re-written or that 1980 was a particularly bad year for him.

Since most of you who get this film will be receiving it as part of the Omen Trilogy box set, there's not much point in either recommending it or slating it. It's diverting enough to kill a couple of hours as long as you are in a very undemanding mood but as the culmination of the story of Damien, it's as big a disappointment as it was on its release back in 1981.

The Disc

This is a perfectly competent but unexciting disc from Fox. They understandably put most effort into The Omen special edition and gave relatively little time to the sequels. That said, the visual and aural aspects are generally very good, making up for one of the most boring commentaries imaginable.

The film is presented in anamorphic 2.35:1. It's a very good transfer. The image looks crisp and detailed with no real artefacting problems apart from one or two glitches in the very dark scenes when Damien is berating Christ in his attic. A little grain is present but it's not a serious problem. The colours are excellent throughout as is the contrast.

The soundtrack is Dolby Surround only but is quite adequate for this film where the most excitement is to be found in the music track. Jerry Goldsmith's score sounds marvellous throughout and is placed at the forefront of the mix. Dialogue is directional and clear. Unfortunately, there is no isolated music track.

The main extra is a commentary from Graham Baker. To call it tedious would be an understatement. He doesn't say anything for much of the time and when he does you wish he hadn't bothered. About two thirds of the commentary track are silent in fact. It's really not worth plodding through.

We also get the trailers for the three films in the trilogy (I discount the abysmal Omen 4: The Awakening as a matter of principle since it makes part 3 look like a neglected classic). These are splendid entertainment in their own right especially the first one which is unintentional camp at its finest. There are also some bonus trailers for other Fox movies, the titles of which I will not reveal since anyone watching this disc deserves at least some excitement and the film hardly supplies that.

No other extras I'm afraid, not that I can really think of what might have been appropriate for this film. There are a reasonable 20 chapter stops and some nicely designed menus. When you insert the disc you get an advert for Fox DVD. Loud, dull and irritating, it reminded me of why I didn't buy most of Fox's previous releases.

A decidedly mediocre film then which is presented on a disc that is technically pleasing but otherwise entirely average.

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Last updated: 27/06/2018 05:48:11

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