‘Damien’ Series Premiere: The Beast Rises

Damien 12

On the season premiere of “Damien,” the latest iteration of the classic horror series “The Omen,” we met a 30-year old Damien (Bradley James, of “iZombie” and “Merlin” fame), now a war photographer in Syria. As we see in flashbacks of the original “Omen” film, this is indeed Damien Thorn, son of former Ambassador Robert Thorn (the late Gregory Peck), who tried to kill him as a five-year-old child, a fact Damien is only just starting to remember.

Indeed, Damien has blacked out all of this until an old woman (Viv Moore, “The Witch”) approaches him during the turmoil of a forced evacuation of squatters by soldiers in a war-torn part of Syria. Touching his head, her eyes rolling back into her head and seeming to go into a trance, she tells him “I love you. It’s all for you” and says something to him in Latin, before getting decked with a rock and knocked unconscious and taken away.

This causes Damien to flash back to that infamous scene in the original movie where his nanny says the same thing, right before hanging herself in front of a horrified group of revelers at Damien’s fifth birthday party. The old woman promptly disappears, leaving Damien confused and out of sorts, not sure what just happened. He and friend and fellow photog Imani (Omid Abtahi, “Argo”) are forcibly abducted by the soldiers, who inform them that they are to be deported back to the States.

Ex-girlfriend Kelly (Tiffany Hines, “Bones”), however, not only films the incident in question, she gets away and is able to catch a ride out of the area from someone, allowing her to stay put in Syria for the time being. Back in New York, Damien gets in touch with Kelly and asks her to see what she can find out about the old woman.

Damien 9

Now banned from Syria himself, Damien tries to call in a favor with old friend Cray (Cody Ray Thompson, “Antisocial 1 & 2”), who he was in the Preston Club with before getting tossed out for unknown reasons 15 years ago. Cray says he will do what he can to allow Damien to be able to go back to Syria, though we don’t quite see who Cray is or what he does, exactly, beyond being a member of said club.

Damien also runs into Ann Rutledge (Barbara Hershey, “Chicago Hope,” who once played Mary Magdalene in the Scorsese classic “The Last Temptation of Christ”), a mysterious woman, who says she has been looking out for him for years, as have others, including, as we discover, the old woman from earlier.

She also knows an awful lot about him, including that he was kicked out of various schools over the years, but that his dad would be proud of what he’s become. She says their paths will cross again soon, and makes cryptic reference to the fact that the “seal has been broken, the trumpet blown,” which only serves to mystify Damien that much more.

Kelly returns to New York and meets with Damien, informing him that she wasn’t able to find the old woman, but that she found something odd on the video of their interaction that she filmed. It seems that the old woman spoke to Damien in Latin, saying: “Here is my beloved son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

This turns out to be a quote from the Bible, specifically the Gospel of Matthew, in which it was spoken by God to Christ, as he was baptized by John the Baptist. Christ was himself 30 at the time, just like Damien, and, in a way, Damien was baptized at that moment as well, when the rock hit the old woman and her blood splattered onto his face.

Damien 5

Damien tells Kelly about his flashbacks about the nanny and admits that he broke up with her because he always felt like there was a dark cloud hovering above him and he didn’t want to drag her down with him. Kelly introduces him to Simone (Megalyn Echikunwoke, “The Following” and “The 4400”), her sister, who seems wary of him, probably because of their break-up, not the whole “dark cloud” thing- at least at the moment.

Kelly does some research on Damien and his family and finds out about Jennings (David Warner in the original “Omen”), a fellow photographer, who died under mysterious circumstances in Israel, while traveling with Damien’s father.

She says they were there to meet with Carl Bugenhagen, an archeologist, who was in the Middle East on a dig, for unknown reasons. Kelly says they should go and talk to his former student, Professor Renayas (Sam Anderson, “Lost”) for more info.

When they meet, the Professor has a strong reaction to Damien’s name and tells them that Bugenhagen was obsessed with Damien, and that he was a Biblical scholar. He says that Damien’s father wanted to talk to him about the “End of Days” and “The Beast” or “Man of Lawlessness.”

Damien realizes that he’s talking about the anti-Christ and is skeptical, especially when the Professor insists that he must accept Christ as his personal savior and warns him that “the Devil can take many forms.”

damien-dogas

Damien and Kelly leave, and we see that three dogs are watching over them. The Professor’s door opens on its own, allowing the dogs passage inside, and then the door to his study as well, where they attack and kill the Professor, ripping out his throat in spectacularly gory fashion, as the “Omen” series was somewhat infamous for.

Kelly discovers that the Professor has been killed and Damien automatically blames himself, even though she tells him he was killed by animals in a freak accident. He demands that she leave and distance herself from him, lest anything bad happen to her, which she reluctantly does. Turns out he was more right than he knew, as Kelly goes outside to find her car stuck in the mud and things only get worse from there.

Kelly steps out of the car to find a board to leverage herself out, and then the car begins to sink, almost as if it were in quicksand. She herself then gets pulled under and her screams bring Damien running, but all too late to save her. Somehow, he manages to evade being pulled under himself, even though he was standing right in the same area of mud.

Eventually, firefighters and cops arrive and they are able to retrieve Kelly’s body, determining it to be another “freak accident.” Damien rides in the ambulance with her, along with Simone and Imani. Despite her skepticism of Damien earlier, Simone seems strangely forgiving of Damien, and leans heavily on him for comfort. It’s possible she’s in shock, I suppose- understandably.

Damien 10

Later, Damien takes her home and Simone mentions how Kelly is in Heaven now, and how it’s ironic that she would die here, after Simone and her parents were convinced she’d be killed in her line of work in some war-torn country at some point. Damien seems pretty skeptical of the whole Heaven thing, but mostly keeps his mouth shut, probably wisely.

We see a man meet with a religious figure, neither of whom we find out the names of. The man tells the other man that the Professor is dead and that it happened after he spoke with Damien. The religious man frets that they “waited too long” and opens up a trunk, retrieving a dagger there, which he gives to the other man. We know from the original “Omen” films that this is likely one of the daggers of Megiddo, a mystical item that is what must be used to vanquish the anti-Christ.

We end where we began, with Damien visiting a church, where he asks the statue of Christ “Why?” and “What do you want?” as the wind blows around him, putting out all the candles. Damien touches the statue and it instantly crumbles into pieces, falling to the ground. Damien flashes back to his father trying to kill him and being shot in the process. He leaves the church, only to spot the old woman outside.

Damien 1

Damien rushes towards her and demands to know who she is and what’s going on, but she says nothing and only grabs a clutch of hair from his head as a group of near-by passers-by pull Damien off of her. He goes home and looks at various pictures, only to notice for the first time that the old woman is in every one of the ones he’s in, watching over him- even as a child. He runs into the bathroom and looks into the mirror, looking at the spot where the old woman ripped out his hair, and sure enough, he sees the three infamous sixes- the Number of the Beast.

And so it begins. I liked that this was more of a continuation than a complete reboot of the classic series. While it’s clear that they are ret-conning at least “The Final Conflict,” if not “Damien-Omen Part II,” having clips of the original film undeniably helped the proceedings and let us know that they original creators were on board with this one, down to the participation of David Seltzer, who wrote the original and receives a writing credit on the series.

In addition, the series was developed by Glen Mazzara, best-known as the former executive producer and show-runner of “The Walking Dead” in its second and third seasons, which are the same positions he serves here on “Damien.” Director Shekhar Kapur, best-known for the “Elizabeth” films with Cate Blanchett, does the honors for the premiere, which, oddly enough, was actually originally commissioned for the Lifetime network, of all places. I think A&E is a much better fit, especially alongside the similarly-minded “Bates Motel,” which it airs after, though that show is technically a prequel series, not a sequel like this one.

Damien 6

While it’s much too soon to say if the story will work as an ongoing series, the premiere was certainly watchable, and features many of the trademarks of the original “Omen” series, including the gory and/or oddball deaths, the menacing Rottweilers, the sinister women watching over Damien, and, of course, Damien himself and the anti-Christ lore that comes along with him.

It does go light on the trademark music- for now- but hopefully the infamous “Ave Satani” will eventually make an appearance, somewhere down the line. There were definitely hints of it in the score, for sure, from fellow “Walking Dead” vet Bear McCreary.

However, the score here is much more subtle and less overbearing- though, don’t get me wrong, I just adore Jerry Goldsmith’s Oscar-winning score, as over-the-top and nuts as it is. At the same time, with it having been parodied by the likes of “South Park,” I can see where they would want to go a different direction with it, lest it come off as silly or overpowering.

Damien 4

While only time will tell if it warrants must-see status, “Damien” is off to a decent enough start, thanks to a polished look, a solid cast- especially Hershey, who exudes the menace she perfected in the likes of “Black Swan”– and some excellent gore effects.

It will certainly be interesting to see how they proceed from here. Will Damien accept his fate, or fight it? How will he fare against those who stand against him? What insane ways of dispatching people will they come up with here? Can’t wait to find out. For the time being, I’m in.

Damien 2

What did you think of the “Damien” premiere? Are you hooked? Or were you unimpressed so far? What do you think the show will need to do to sustain itself as a series? Can it? What would you like to see happen over the course of the season? What did you think of the cast? Did you find the show scary? Sound off on this and more down below!