Saturday, March 05, 2016

Damien: His Father’s Son

In the original Omen films, Damien Thorn was truly his father’s son. In the Marvel universe, Daimon Hellstrom, a.k.a. The Son of Satan, was also the spawn of the evil one, but he rejected his infernal legacy. This time around, the potential antichrist appears to be somewhere in between. Regardless, the end times might just be coming judging from the promising first episode of Damien (promo here), A&E’s new series adaptation of the Omen franchise, which premieres this Monday.

It is hard to believe parents still name their boys Damien (or Daimon or the especially evil Damon), but apparently they do. It has be thirty-some years since the original trilogy (the subsequent made-for-TV sequel, failed mid-1990s Fox pilot, and 2006 remake do not count). Traumatized by the events of his childhood (which technically took place in the late 1970s), Thorn is now a present day war photographer who has repressed most of his early memories. He has a history of behavioral issues, but presumably he is no longer the hellion he once was. In fact, he rather earnest and responsible. Thorn even broke up with his former colleague, Kelly Baptiste, to protect her from the evil vibes that follow him around.

While on assignment in Syria, Thorn encountered an intense, chador-wearing woman who seemed to know way more about him than she should. Having been expelled by the Assad regime, Thorn seeks out help from his contacts at a Council on Foreign Relations type group to renew his visa. There he encounters Ann Rutledge, who positions herself as Damien’s equivalent of the X-Files’ cigarette-smoking man. Apparently, she has been watching Thorn for some time—and she’s not the only one.

Frankly, it is cool to see Damien reference the original films with stills of Gregory Peck portraying Robert Thorn doubling as Damien Thorn’s family photos. The pilot gives us reason to suspect Thorn will try deny his antichrist destiny to some extent. Of course, if we are to assume the series is an updated account of the events between Omens II and III, than he must inevitably turn into Sam Neill. However, it could be entertaining to watch showrunner Glen Mazzara wrestle with those constraints.

It is worth noting two intriguing characters will not survive to see the second episode, so clearly Mazzara isn’t pulling punches. Those Walking Dead habits die hard. He also shrewdly incorporates recognizable imagery from the original films, including the iconic black hellhound (or in this case hellhounds). So far, the contemporizing elements also feel quite fitting, such as the sinister business in war and oppression-stricken Syria.

It is hard to really judge from only one episode, but in the title role, Bradley James seems suitably confused while hinting at Thorn’s profound dark side. The premiere episode shows a lot of potential, but even if the rest of the season craters, horror fans should still enjoy the opener’s hat tips to the classic source film. Worth starting (and hopefully worth finishing, only time will tell), Damien debuts this Monday (3/7) on A&E.