OMEN III: THE FINAL CONFLICT (1981)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 48 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

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Directed by: Graham Baker

Written by: Andrew Birkin

Starring: Sam Neill, Lisa Harrow, Rossano Brazzi, Don Gordon, Leueen Willoughby, Tony Vogel & Mason Adams

To be completely fair to OMEN III: THE FINAL CONFLICT, this trilogy was setting itself up for a grand finale. The final installment in the real OMEN series (we’ll ignore that shitty TV movie follow-up) doesn’t fully deliver on that set-up. It does make a little bit of sense looking back on the first two films. It’s far more interesting and creepy to watch adults figure out that their child is the Antichrist or a teenager come to terms with being the Antichrist as opposed to the Devil incarnate wreaking havoc as an adult. We’ve seen so many adult Devils (both before and after this film) that FINAL CONFLICT feels too familiar to other movies and is rather original for an OMEN movie. Some people outright dislike this film and call it a stain on the OMEN series. I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s far weaker than you might hope for the closing chapter of a great horror trilogy.

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Damien is now in his early thirties and making a name for himself in politics (The Devil’s a politician? Who knew?). After moving into the position his adoptive father once held as U.S. Ambassador to Britain, Damien is planning to run for president. Once there, he will be guaranteed the most power he can possibly hold (both in office and on Earth) to condemn the world to damnation. His evil plans are complicated by the signs that the Second Coming is upon him. Damien does his damnedest (see what I did there?) to kill Christ’s child (a.k.a. the Nazarene) incarnate. Meanwhile, a band of monks are trying to end Damien with the seven holy daggers that were more of a little detail in the first two films.

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Sam Neill is a mixed bag of an actor. However, I really liked his Damien Thorn. The character has a charismatic side that hides his true nature. You can see why people would like him as a politician and a possible friend (other than his Satanist followers). When his nasty side comes out, it’s also in a cool and collected way that makes him so much more of a badass. They’re aren’t nearly as many death scenes in this third OMEN outing and it makes sense given the story. Pretty much everyone who was ever interested in discovering Damien’s real identity has already been offed (save for the religious folks who have kept together in a small group). As a result, there aren’t as many creative bloody scenes as there were in the previous two installments. That doesn’t mean there aren’t a few cool moments. The most notable of which is a hunting scene. Another is a quiet TV studio interview gone very wrong.

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After two solid movies that only featured a few of his followers (a nanny, a drill sergeant, an aunt), seeing Damien address his worshipers in a huge congregation is neat and gives a solid idea of just how many people are following Satan’s son. Also, there is a really cruel montage following that scene that goes into an extreme area of nastiness. It might just be argued that it was for shock value, but it’s well-executed and gives you a lot by showing just enough to get the point. However, an unneeded forbidden romance type angle was thrown in between Damien and a journalist that comes off as filler. There was potential in the idea, but it’s never realized. The movie lacks that distinct brooding darkness that lingered around the first two films. Details regarding the seven daggers being the only real way to off Damien are also used more as guidelines instead of rules. That might explain why every monk only carries one with him, when we’ve been specifically told multiple times in the previous OMENs that you need all seven at once to kill the Antichrist. It’s a bit of a cheat later on, but it’s somewhat acceptable given that there are so many positive qualities here.

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THE FINAL CONFLICT is definitely not the defining last note that fans of the OMEN series where hoping the saga of Damien would end on. There are positive things (cool scenes, Sam Neill’s performance, a grim level that the film does dip into) and negative traits (a useless romance and plot holes). OMEN III is the weakest of the trilogy, but it’s not a bad film. FINAL CONFLICT is a decent enough final chapter to an otherwise very solid trilogy. It makes sense that things would get a little less interesting when the Antichrist grew up, but we kind of hoped he wouldn’t.

Grade: B-

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