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Old 10-24-2010, 11:09 PM
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Omen IV: The Awakening




Reviewer: Rhett
Review Date: October 23, 2010

Released by: Fox
Release date: 9/5/2000
MSRP: $9.98
Region 1, NTSC
Progressive Scan
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes
1991



inline ImageWhenever Scream is brought up, it’s mentioned how it revived the horror genre, and how the years leading up to it were plagued with diminishing ideas and diminishing interest. Genres work in cycles, and since the majority of the major franchises were cultivated in the mid-seventies to mid-eighties, the big franchises were starting to wane by 1990. The major franchises floundered, with Freddy’s Dead, Jason Takes Manhattan and The Curse of Michael Myers all taking their series to outlandish lows. Furthermore, the over-saturation of VHS and cable television made for a never-ending dumping ground for less than worthy genre films, leading to a slew of cheap sex comedies and horror films. Even the big companies were guilty of this, with Universal releasing the “Bates Motel” Psycho spin-off and Fox churning out Made for TV sequels to both Revenge of the Nerds and The Omen. Written by longtime series producer Harvey Bernhard (with the help of Poltergeist III, The New Kids and Visiting Hours writer Brian Taggert) and directed (at least until he quit midway through) by eccentric Halloween 5 director Dominique Othenin-Gerard, Omen IV: The Awakening looks at least interesting on paper. And interesting it is.


The Story

inline ImageSee if you’ve heard this before. A married couple look to adopt a child into their on-the-rise political family, but it turns out the child is actually the anti-Christ. Sounds like The Omen, right? Well, get this…the child is a GIRL! Crazy, right? Such is Omen IV. Little Delia (Asia Vieira) provides instant happiness to Sarah and Gene York (Faye Grant, of “V” fame, and Michael Woods), since the couple had formerly thought they were sterile. It doesn’t take long for weird things to happen, though, as Delia scratches mommy, has a hissy fit during her baptism and bites the head off a Barbie doll. Not really the kind of thing you’d expect from a child given from a nunnery. But while Delia acts up, her adoptive father moves up through a curious chain of events, eventually becoming a congressman. Pieces seem to be falling in place for Satan’s big political takeover after the tragedy that befell Damien at the end of The Final Conflict.

inline ImageDelia’s temper goes from being a character flaw to an all out problem, though, when she starts to clash with her New Age nanny. Delia’s presence turns all the nanny’s spirit crystals black, but you should see what she can do at a psychic fair. After nearly outing the demon inside Delia for Sarah to see, Delia acts quick and sicks her pet, you guessed it, Rottweiler, on the nanny, hurtling her out a top story window. When Sarah gets a weird vibe from one of the old nannies when she runs into her, she starts to seriously sense that something is wrong with Delia and her birth parents. Speaking of birthing, Sarah also finds out that she’s pregnant…sounds like the perfect pro-choice platform!

inline ImageAfraid that Delia will try and harm her or her unborn child, Sarah enlists in a private eye to uncover Delia’s past. Earl Knight (Michael Lerner, who’d be nominated for an Oscar for his next role in Barton Fink) doesn’t quite having shining armor, but the detective is able to use some convenient clowns (seriously) to pull some files from Delia’s orphanage. Sensing that something is wrong, he sends his revelations to Sarah via mail, and it’s a good thing, since he gets a one on one meeting with a wrecking ball shortly after. With people all around Sarah mysteriously dying in bizarre accidents, it’s time for Sarah to take charge before the devil has his way with her. Just who is Delia, and what is she capable of?

inline ImageI’m sounding like a broken record here, but like with Damien, you can tell this movie was written by a producer. It reiterates every successful trope from the original films, be it the killer dog or the suicidal nanny, and tacks on death sequences just to pad the bodycount to keep the investors happy. Being a telefilm, though, it can’t hide, like Damien did, behind lofty production values or a veteran cast. The main problem is not that The Awakening overly familiar, which it is, but that the familiarity makes it easy to see just how much of a step down the film is in terms of its cast, crew and production value. The biggest downgrade is the music, which is amazingly shrill, simplistic and often out of place. They licensed a couple of Goldsmith’s compositions from the first and third films, and inserting them here only makes the cheap soundtrack sound even worse. The acting, outside of a respectable and committed turn by Lerner, is really rough around the edges and censored for television, the kills certainly lack blood, gore or any sort of voracity.

inline ImageThere’s all that, and then there’s Dominique Othenin-Gerard. The guy’s got to be the weirdest horror auteur out there, and like Damien and his 666 stamp, Omen IV certainly bears Gerard’s mark. The first is Gerard’s fascination with clowns (and one would argue his fascination for putting them in the most out of place moment as possible). Like with Halloween 5, where you’d hear the goofy circus horns and zingers whenever the policemen were walking around, Omen IV has a carnival-esque soundtrack during some death sequences and common dialogue moments. There doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason to it, but I guess that’s Gerard’s way. Maybe he’s trying to be like Fellini by saying we’re all essentially clowns, hiding under a mask of our own insecurities. That has to be it. Omen IV takes his clown fascination further, though, but not only using them in a deus ex moment to help the detective steal the files, but there’s also an elaborate scene at the psychic fair where clowns and circus performers flail around in grand fashion. Hell, even a decapitation is punctuated with a shot of a rolling ball with a clown on it.

inline ImageBack to the psychic fair, though. It deserves its own paragraph. First of all…a psychic fair. Psychic. Fair. As if that isn’t weird enough, the camp meter goes off the charts when every single psychic that Delia passes gives the most contorted, big eyed look of repulsion you’ll likely ever see. Then, proving camp can have no boundaries, people just start randomly combusting until the whole fair goes ablaze. It’s seriously an amazing sight to see as random people just start getting lit on fire. Whatever Gerard is smoking, he needs to give it to all of us. And then light us on fire.

inline ImageAnother total Gerardian moment is when Delia first shows her evil streak by chasing a kid up a ladder and, no, not having him fall or hurt himself, but instead making him piss his pants in front of all the kids. Halloween 5 was filled with odd moments between young children, and this one seems to again up the ante. Do you think Satan would be proud that Delia forced a kid to urinate? I’d like to hope so. Unfortunately, though, Asia Vieira is no Danielle Harris, and again, without the restraint of a mindful, quality cast and crew, Gerard’s outlandish eccentricities stick out even more glaringly in this sequel. For some, that’s the ticket for admission, while most others will want to turn away in shame.

inline ImageAfter the somber success of the first three films (or, really, the two not written by the producer, The Omen and The Final Conflict), this one takes a completely different tone. It’s pretty high camp, like when Lerner is flattened by a wrecking ball and the next cut is an egg being cracked, and can certainly be enjoyed as such for bad movie fans. I will concede, though, the last shot in the movie is a virtuoso one, and definitely one of the darkest, grandest omens in the entire series. It almost makes you want a sequel. Almost.


Image Quality

inline ImageEleven years more recent than the previous sequel, Omen IV benefits from a resultantly sharper transfer. Despite being made for television, it was still shot on film and thus has that cinematic look we’ve come to expect from the series, albeit on a smaller scale. Being shot on film also introduces dust and debris on the print itself, and while this is a little cleaner than the previous movies, there is still a fairly recurrent flow of blemishes. Transferred at the same time as all the other films, this one has that same overly brown and earthy look that subdues color saturation and dulls the overall image. There is very little grain and considering how little fanfare the film receives, it is still nice that Fox befitted the film with an anamorphic, progressive scan transfer. Better than a Kirlian photograph.

Sound

inline ImageA step up over the 2.0 sequels, this one is in the little used Dolby Surround 4.0. The only other titles I can readily recall in the format are those DVD upgrades for Point Break, Chain Reaction and Big Trouble in Little China, all Fox films. Anyway, the track sounds similar to the previous surround upgrades. Music is curiously constrained to the center speaker along with all the dialogue, which often makes the film sound too cramped in the center. The poor fidelity and muted dialogue give the track a distinctly monaural sound. The two fronts and the rear are devoted almost entirely to sound effects, from horses in a barn to murmurings in a church. The sound effects are effectively separated from the main dialogue, but often are too quiet in relation to the rest of the audio. There are some very effective moments, like that weird part when the old nun just dies while beating on the young nun. During that, her yelp of pain echoes throughout the front and back for a pretty convincing surround effect. Many opportunities for left and right movement in the front speakers is sadly ignored, though, in this fixed and directionless track.

Supplemental Material

inline ImageWhile I desperately, pleadingly wanted a commentary with king crazy Dominique Othenin-Gerard, or a Criterion-level look at his infatuation with clowns, Fox has instead given us nothing. Since Harvey Bernhard wrote and produced this, like with Damien, you’d think they would have got him to fire off a commentary for this when he sat down for the second film. Like with Omen II, as well, Bernhard also replaced the director, so I’m sure he’s got an earful to say about that. There are no extras here, and considering Fox didn’t even include this in their recent Blu-ray upgrade of the series, this may be all we’re likely to get for some time.


Final Thoughts

inline ImageOmen IV is misguided, campy and overbearingly weird like only crazy French hack Dominique Othenin-Gerard can do. If you never thought you’d ever see Satan use his powers to make a small boy wet his pants on a ladder, The Awakening demands you think again. The psychic fair scene, where everyone seems to just get randomly lit on fire, is also high camp heaven, or hell, depending on your appreciation of bad movies. The transfer is sharper but otherwise on par with the other films, and the sound is thin but with some surround flourishes. The lack of extras is a shame, but hopefully we’ll one day see a future where Gerard tries explaining this. If you liked the crazy taste of Halloween 5 or want to at least see how the Omen series wraps up, Omen IV offers a chalice full of crazy.

Rating

.
Movie - C-

Image Quality - B-

Sound - B-

Supplements - D





Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Running time - 1 hour 37 minutes
  • Not Rated
  • 1 Disc
  • English Dolby Surround 4.0
  • English Dolby Surround 3.0
  • French Dolby Surround 3.0
  • English subtitles
  • Spanish subtitles

Supplements
  • Theatrical trailers

Back Cover




Additional Stills

 

 

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Old 10-25-2010, 01:14 AM
Victim
Interesting review. So, if I understand it correctly, there is no link between the first 3 and this one other than the title?
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Last edited by TheShape; 10-25-2010 at 01:18 AM..
 
 
Old 10-25-2010, 01:26 AM
Moderator
There is no connection initially, but by the end of the film the link between these films and the previous Omens is defined. It's too bad they didn't flesh the connection out more, though, because it could have provided some interesting dramatic material.
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Old 10-25-2010, 06:07 AM
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