Taking a cue from the network’s fairly successful ‘Psycho’ reboot ‘Bates Motel’ (now in its fourth season), A&E’s new drama series ‘Damien’ is based on Richard Donner’s 1976 horror movie ‘The Omen’. Coming from former ‘The Walking Dead’ producer Glen Mazzara, the scariest thing about this show is how awful it is.
The series positions itself as a direct follow-up to the original ‘Omen’ film, complete with old clips that serve as flashbacks. At least so far, the show mostly disregards the franchise’s other sequels and the 2006 remake, which is probably for the best given how bad they were. In order to make the connection with the movie work, you have to fudge the timeline a little. An early scene in the pilot episode tells us that the title character has just turned 30-years-old, which would mean that he was born in 1986. Flashbacks to his fifth birthday would have to take place in 1991. While I don’t necessarily have a problem with the show ret-conning details like that, photos on display show Damien’s parents (original stars Gregory Peck and Lee Remick, both sadly now deceased) clearly garbed in 1970s fashions.
Bradley James from ‘Merlin’ stars as hunky photojournalist Damien Thorn. While on assignment in Damascus documenting the Syrian military abusing refugees, Damien is accosted by an old woman who calls his name and says to him, in English, “It’s all for you.” That’s the same phrase his childhood governess said before committing suicide in front of him. Shortly afterward, the woman disappears and Damien is deported from the country before he can find her again.
Back in New York, Damien remains obsessed by this bizarre encounter. He asks his girlfriend, sexy reporter Kelly (Tiffany Hines), to see what she can dig up for him while she’s still in Syria. He does the same of an old frat buddy who belongs to a wealthy social institution called the Preston Club. While in that building, Damien runs into a mysterious woman named Ann Rutledge (Barbara Hershey), who implies that she has known and secretly watched over him his entire life. That’s kind of weird, right?
Kelly returns to New York and fills Damien in on what she’s learned about the old woman, which somehow connects Damien to ancient Biblical prophesies about the Antichrist. Together, they seek out a Biblical scholar (Sam Anderson from ‘Lost’) who is immediately taken aback when Damien introduces himself. He spouts out some mumbo-jumbo about Damien’s father, but Damien (who says he doesn’t believe in either God or the Devil) gets fed up with him and leaves. Later that night, the professor is attacked and murdered by black dogs.
After Damien and Kelly have a completely contrived argument about nothing, the girlfriend runs out to her car in a huff, only to find it stuck in the mud. As she tries to get it out, the mud turns into a sinkhole and sucks her under while Damien watches helplessly.
The next morning, rescue workers dig Kelly’s corpse out of the sinkhole. Damien is very sad about his girlfriend dying. Not to worry, she’s quickly replaced with Kelly’s equally-sexy sister Simone (Megalyn Echikunwoke, who co-starred with Tiffany Hines in the ‘90210’ reboot).
Damien visits an old church to yell at a statue of Jesus. As soon as he enters the building, hundreds of candles simultaneously blow out. Ooohhh…. freaky. Even more foreboding, the statue crumbles to pieces when Damien touches it. This triggers Damien to have a flashback to a repressed memory of his daddy trying to kill him.
The old lady from Syria is waiting for Damien outside the church. She yanks out a chunk of his hair and runs off. When he gets home, Damien scours dozens of old photos he’s taken around the world and finds the old lady in the background of all of them, watching him. He then looks in the mirror to inspect the patch of hair she ripped out, and finds a birthmark in the shape of the numbers 666 on his scalp.
Yup, he’s the Antichrist all right. Total bummer, dude.
Episode Verdict / Grade: D-
Let’s just be clear here. This show is terrible. Like, really terrible. It’s ridiculous and stupid and (worst of all) incredibly boring. Its few attempts to build up the sort of operatic scares from the original ‘Omen’ all fall painfully flat.
Honestly, even the first ‘Omen’ was a pretty dopey movie, but it was elevated by a couple of A-List stars and an Oscar-winning musical score by Jerry Goldsmith. The ‘Damien’ series doesn’t have much in its favor beyond the somewhat intriguing premise of an Antichrist discovering himself and rising to power in modern times. Sadly, the execution here is a mess and star Bradley James is far too bland to carry it off.