The Omen Collection - Damien: Omen II Blu-ray Review
PictureAll four movies in this Collection have MPEG-4 encodes, and the 2.35:1 transfer for Damien: Omen II, unlike its immediate predecessor, bears some evidence of DNR smoothing having taken place. The layer of grain is very, very thin. Its image is crisp and clean, but definitely lacking some texture in the faces, though some of this can attributed to the softer style of photography which may provide lots of amazingly elaborate deep-focus frames from time to time, but can still develop that TV-movie blandness on occasion. This smoothing isn't all the way through, however, as there are still moments when the grain appears and finite detail is allowed to appear. But there are instances when the image has that waxy sheen to it. Now I'm not particularly averse to the effects of this and, on the whole, Omen II looks far superior to any other version of it that I have seen. For one thing, the lack of damage - just the odd pop and flicker here and there - and the vividness of the colours make this picture incredibly bright and attractive. Once more, the film is autumnal and even wintry, but its palette is bright and colourful. Contrast is very well maintained throughout - blacks are satisfyingly deep (Bugenhagen's subterranean temple) and high whites do not glitch (the extensive snow-set sequences) - and interiors have a convincing level of shadow-play.
Colours, again, seem more natural than those in the previous versions - albeit red stands out a mile. Joan Hart's coat and garishly pecked-out eye-sockets are neon-lit compared to the dull, earthy surroundings of her demise. Holden's yellow woolly hat and Ayre's bright orange waterproof coat look splendid against the stark white backgrounds. Red curtains and gorgeously warm panelling liberally bathe the Thorn residence and even the plush executive office suite and this thick display of swathes of colour is well treated by the transfer without any banding or smearing. The insignia - Air Cavalry patch etc - on Henrikson's uniform an the vegetation on display in the vast Thorn greenhouse also possess a keen saturation that is quite entrancing. The shot of Damien's platoon coming over the crest of the slope at the Academy as they march into parade is a great example of the colour, detail and contrast on display, the image looking sharp and vibrant. Skin tones tend to veer into warmer territory, with a lot of rosy cheeks in evidence, but this is better than some of the washed-out pictures that I've seen before. Scott-Taylor and Lucas Donat definitely feel the cold in some of the snowier scenes, with strawberry noses and a high glow to their faces.
Detail is much greater than seen in any SD version and the Blu-ray also manages some nice three-dimensionality. Bill Butler's fantastic widescreen compositions are given a wonderful presentation in 1080p, and the depth revealed in moments when we see the Chicago streets, or the corridors within the Thorn Building, or characters moving from background to foreground are marvellously natural and deep. Look at the line of Thorn, Atherton, Paul and Vasarian as they stride in a diagonal line through the greenhouse, or when Paul stomps through the snow to meet Thorn standing in the foreground, the trees and the house in the background really giving that sense of stretching far away beyond the back of the screen. Another nice touch is the level of convincing depth afforded the shot of Damien and Mark in the backseat of their limo as they talk to the chauffer. Occasionally, though, you can see that some far-off portions of the image - usually at the sides of the frame - have softened and become blurred, but this is how it was filmed and is not an error of the transfer. Mind you, there is also some edge enhancement along some of the walls in Jerusalem and around various other outlines, though I didn't find this to be distracting. What did distract, though, was the shimmering of trees during several sideways panning shots - the scene when Mark, after contemplating the possibility that his cousin may be the Beast, stalks out into the woods, in particular.
Omen II still provides a more colourful and vivid experience this time out, and even if I do feel that some important texture has been lost, this is more than compensated for with the new level of depth that the image presents.
SoundThe audio boasts a new DTS-MA 5.1 track that replaces the old DD 5.1 mix. Purists can be relieved that the mono track has also been brought along.
Whilst there are moments when the audio comes alive - Goldsmith's score, once again, taking the honours - Omen II is still not all that lively of a movie in the first place. Surrounds are only occasionally brought into play. There is some element of ambience bleeding through - car horns and voices in the city, the hubbub of Mark's party and the visit to the plant - but most of the dynamics are reserved for the deaths. As with The Omen, screaming and music boost most of these, but the elevator scene has some wild snapping cables and a solid grinding rush of metal to compensate for the burst of bass that crashes through it all. Warren's crunching end in-between two train carriages is also quite deftly rendered. The collapsing temple that Bugenhagen and his nervous chum find themselves in packs some decent masonry wallops across the front, though really this sequence would have benefited from much more surround presence.
Dialogue, apart from the odd voice that emanates from behind us, is quite low-key. It is always clear and consistent, but it still sounds a little subdued and set way-back into the mix, reminding us, more than the actual lack of whip-around stuff, that this is an older film. The guttural squawk-cum-belch motif for the dastardly crow is juicily delivered with some severely intimidating nastiness, but I wish that Damien's grief-stricken scream out in the snow - a terrifically unexpected touch, by the way - was more piercing and enveloping. But, Damien: Omen II, whilst certainly provided with more depth and weight and more scope to its audio by the lossless track, seems less of an upgrade than I had anticipated. The important thing, however, is that the remix doesn't add anything stupid to the pot and does, in actual fact, give the film more of a bite than the mono.
Again, folks, the choice is yours as to which track works best for you. The DTS-MA is louder and punchier, but it doesn't offer anything significantly exciting on its own terms.
ExtrasMimicking The Omen Trilogy boxset for sequel-extras, Damien: Omen II has just its theatrical trailer and a commentary from producer Harvey Bernhard that is dry, a little mundane but still provides plenty of insight into the production. Prompted by J. M. Kenny - who had put together the original Omen boxset - the track is very scene-specific during the first half and then perhaps a tad rambling once Bernhard gets talking about profits and costs and box office. He is a producer, when all said done, so he is in his element with this. But there are some good little anecdotes littering - such as how Leo McKern fell out of the jeep he was driving at the start, but looking at the manic way in which he pilots the thing, this is not surprising. The story, which Bernhard had devised when The Omen was realised to be a huge success and that more of Damien's exploits could be milked, and the various deaths are covered quite comprehensively. Lew Ayres' ice-drowning is given a great dissection, Bernhard singing the praises of the stunt-cum-cameraman who actually went under the ice for real. And there is a great comment about how Sam Neill came to get the part of the older Damien.
In the scheme of things, this a fine enough track, though it lacks sparkle no matter how much Kenny tries to stir things up.
VerdictDamien: Omen II is much more pedestrian than its illustrious predecessor, and trots out its thrills and chills in a workmanlike manner. Picking up the Devil-child's life at this pivotal juncture was, without doubt, a wise move, though. But the metaphor for teenage rebellion and arrogance could have been explored with much more complexity and intelligence. As it stands, Omen II runs very much by-the-numbers, refusing to gain its own identity along the way and - when you look at it now, in the harsh light of day - it becomes horribly clear how much Fox saw this Satanic saga as a cash-cow. The artistry and the passion have gone from the series already and it becomes painfully apparent that the idea now rests upon performances and extravagant set-piece slaughter. Thankfully, Jonathon Scott-Taylor delivers the goods.
Fox's BD transfer for Omen II is another fine example of an older film left largely unmolested by judicious digital tampering, the results, whilst unremarkable compared to more recent fare, still leaps ahead of any previous version on home video. The audio, equally, ups the game and the original mono track is left in there too. Extras, though, have been pecked thin by Damien's demonic crow. But, then again, the film is covered in The Omen Legacy documentary found on The Omen disc, so all is not lost.
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