TITLE: The Final Conflict (aka Omen 3: The Final Conflict)
DIRECTOR: Graham Baker
CAST: Sam Neil, Rosanno Brazzi and Don Gordon
PLOT: Damien’s all grown up and he’s now ready to take over the world
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REVIEW BY EAMONN GRIFFIN
The Final Conflict is the third in the Omen trilogy. Released in 1981, it was the first feature from Graham Baker who went on to direct Alien Nation in 1988 and the 1999 Christopher Lambert version of Beowulf.
This time out, antichrist Damien Thorn (Sam Neill) is now an adult and heads Thorn Industries. He coerces the US Ambassador to the UK to kill himself, and takes over the role his step-father (Gregory Peck) held in the first movie. There’s an astrological event imminent which is meant to signify the Second Coming of Christ. Thorn works to find and kill the newborn Christ. Journalist Kate Reynolds (Lisa Harrow) begins a relationship with Thorn. Meanwhile, priest De Carlo (Rossano Brazzi) has acquired the Daggers of Megiddo, the seven knives which are the only weapons that can kill the antichrist. He and a kill-squad of six monks attempt to assassinate Thorn.
After the starry first two Omen movies, which play around rather nicely with parallels between Satanism and politics and big business, and which are buttressed with spectacular set-piece deaths (Davis Warner’s beheading in the first movie, the lift-cable dissection in the second) and a sense of weirdness emanating from the central child performances, The Final Conflict is a little subdued. As the adult Thorn though, Sam Neill is both magnetic and brooding and has two fantastic scenes: one, ranting at a statue of Jesus, and a second leading an inversion of the Sermon on the Mount at a foxhunt.
There are some neat moments of action (a well-executed high fall from veteran stuntman Vic Armstrong) and some decent splatter (a shotgun suicide, an iron to the face, a striking moment in a TV studio when one of the assassin monks both hangs and burns alive), but the mood of the piece is more low-key than the first films, despite the flamboyance suggested by the narrative.
The film’s also hampered by internal series consistencies; there are different rules applied to the daggers than in the first film and in order to have the action take place in the present day of the early 80s, some massaging was required to the timeline of the first two films, displacing them back in time.
The climax (a well-shot Fountains Abbey) is hampered by having one of the most literal deus ex machina ever used in the movies (well, Jesus makes an appearance) and a frankly rubbish conclusion where the Kate Harrow character manages to stab Satan’s son in the back and finish him off.
Thankfully, Jerry Goldsmith is retained as composer and his throbbing black mass score retains its power and actively supports the film in its weaker moments.
The novelisation (by Gordon McGill) was so successful that the series continued in two further book-only instalments, focusing on the Paul Buher character from Damien: Omen II, and on a child fathered by Thorn and birthed by Kate Reynolds. There was a 1990s TV movie attempt to re-start the franchise and a faithful remake of the first film in 2006.
The Final Conflict (retitled Omen III: The Final Conflict on home viewing release) is a disappointing climax to the trilogy, though it established Sam Neill as a screen presence and it further moved movie Satanism on away from both the cowls-and-cultists scenarios familiar from Dennis Wheatley novels and their movie adaptations, and the demon-child cycle of films released in the wake of Rosemary’s Baby, which the first two are a part.
EAMONN GRIFFIN blogs about writing, movies and the PhD he’s working on. He’s based near Grimsby