After three films of diminishing creative and financial returns and a climactic battle that mostly entailed Sam Neill shouting “Nazarene” right before being bested by a “gotcha!” stab in the back, The Omen franchise seemed done. Damien was defeated. Jesus won. Let’s “Sanguis Bibimus” our way out of this joint.

But if Jesus can be reborn, why not Damien? And if something was a hit once who’s to say it can’t be a hit again?

Thus, we have Omen IV: The Awakening, a mostly forgotten 1991 TV movie that tried to begin anew with a female Antichrist. Gene (Michael Woods) and Karen York (Faye Grant), a Virginia congressman and his attorney wife, adopt little Delia from a nun-owned orphanage. After they leave, one of the older nuns has a heart attack and dies and her much younger protege goes crazy, rips off her habit (what is this, The Devils?) while making a mad dash to a chapel to pray only to see a supernatural force turn the crucifix upside down. Once in her new home, baby Delia almost instantly scratches Karen on the face, causing a nasty, largely inexplicable infection, and later the priest delivering Delia’s baptism suffers a heart attack.

Other than that, all good. No cause for concern. Nothing to see here.

Of course, it’s an Omen movie. We know all of these early peculiarities are bad [wait for it] signs (you thought I was going to say “omens,” didn’t you?), and after a 7-year time jump we meet a Delia (Asia Vieira) who is a bit of a brat and a bully, far more of a sociopath than Damien ever was at that age. For example, she bites the head off her own Barbie and causes a boy she doesn’t like to pee his pants. Damien, um, mostly just liked riding his tricycle in the house and really hated going to church. My word. What ever could explain such strange behavior in young Delia? It’s almost – and stop me if this sounds crazy – like she’s got the devil in her.

Again, it’s an Omen movie. We know what’s coming. The somewhat surprising part is how the film is in no real rush to get to its big reveal that Delia is actually Damien’s daughter. In fact, The Awakening mostly retraces the steps of the first film with an obvious gender switch. This time, the devil child is a girl, not a boy, and it’s the mother, not the father, who grows suspicious and sets out on a nearly movie-long quest to find out where exactly her adopted kid really came from. Satanists, of course, are again acting on the devil child’s behalf and have infiltrated all walks of life, and mysterious forces again Final Destination away any potential enemies, which mostly entails offing a bunch of well-meaning New Age spiritualists.

On paper, that all sounds like a rather workable redo of the original. Making the AntiChrist a female is at least something new, and switching the parental paranoia from a father’s perspective to a mother’s is similarly notable in a “well, they haven’t done that before” kind of way. Sadly, there’s a later insane twist that undoes much of that. Even without it, though, The Awakening wouldn’t really register as memorable. This isn’t exactly a Psycho IV: The Beginning situation where there are a pile of think pieces arguing this little TV movie is an overlooked highlight in a storied horror franchise. No, The Awakening is pretty bad.

You sense as much right away. Jerry Goldsmith’s Oscar-winning score is replaced with Jonathan Sheffer’s ever-present incidental music which feels like it’s been lifted from an entirely different genre and almost instantly overshadows and crowds out the dialogue. The acting is atrocious, in that regrettable style where you can see the actors trying so very, very hard to elevate second-rate material. The production values are decidedly cheaper, and the “Directed By” credit flashes two different names, one you’ve probably never heard of before (Jorge Montesi) and the other (Dominique Othenin-Girard) you might vaguely remember if you’ve ever caught wind of the behind the scenes insanity of Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers.

Beyond that, the restrictions of being TV Movie guarantees watered down versions of the franchise’s calling card – the death scenes.

The backstory is that producer Harvey Bernhard, the man behind the entire franchise to that point, was convinced there was more money to be made with The Omen name. So, he co-wrote The Awakening screenplay with Brian Taggart and filmed the movie on the cheap in Vancouver. The finished product was released in theaters overseas and aired on Fox in the U.S. on May 20, 1991. The reviews were especially harsh. “This TV movie is just plain ridiculous,” said EW. “One of the least entertaining motion pictures ever made for television,” argued the Los Angeles Times.

And with that, the franchise finally died.

Just kidding. There was a nearly shot-for-shot 2006 remake and then a short-lived A&E series in 2014. Either of those are more worth your time than Omen IV: The Awakening. Unlike the Los Angeles Times, I haven’t seen enough to confidently say it’s among the all-time least entertaining films in TV history. There are a couple of Stephen King TV efforts that are probably worse, but when the choice is between something like Rose Red and Omen IV I’d opt for simply turning the TV off entirely and reading a book.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Here’s a hot take: Omen IV is exactly as bad if not worse than everyone says. It’s a film I watched partially out of completism. I did, after all, just make my way through the first three films in the franchise, and Omen IV is right there waiting to be watched on HBO Now. Why not give it a shot? But, also, I’m a Psycho IV: The Beginning defender. I was hoping The Awakening might present a similar opportunity to discover a diamond in the rough. I was so, so wrong.

Recommended for completists only and anyone intrigued by a devil child movie where the kid is a girl instead of a boy. Even then, try to resist that urge.

RANDOM PARTING THOUGHT

  1. Favorite bit of dialogue: Karen: “Father, the Antichrist is always described as male. Does he have to be?” / Father Mattson: “Well, the Bible wasn’t meant to be sexist… mankind can also be womankind!”
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Posted by Kelly Konda

Grew up obsessing over movies and TV shows. Worked in a video store. Minored in film at college because my college didn't offer a film major. Worked in academia for a while. Have been freelance writing and running this blog since 2013.

9 Comments

  1. Is there any fourth movie in a franchise that stands out as good? Superman 4, Rocky 4, um police academy 4. I guess Lethal Weapon 4 seemed good but they squeezed the pips out by then. Actually your synopsis actually makes me want to watch it. It sounds better than I remember. All I recall is the nun being attacked by snakes and some detective being KOd by a wrecking ball something ripped straight out of a roadrunner cartoon. ACME. But the above sounds intriguing. Interesting about the score. I didnt notice a change. I thought it was the same eery catholic choir of latin lyrics…argh..nobody takes religion seriously unless something evil happens, then everyone remembers their prayers.

    Reply

    1. Good fourth movies – Star Trek IV, Psycho IV, Hellraiser: Bloodlines (maybe; it’s been years since I watched it), Friday the 13th: Part IV (little Corey Feldman chopping Jason up to bits), Nightmare on Elm Street IV (love Renny Harlin’s crazy dream imagery and when they get stuck in the loop), and….

      Well, that’s all I can think of. Like I said in the piece, I gave Omen IV a shot partially out of completism but also because I’m someone who likes Psycho IV, which more or less did Bates Motel years earlier. So, a TV movie fourth entry in a horror franchise didn’t have to be quite so bad.

      Omen IV sounds more intriguing on paper than it actually is as a movie.

      The musical score thing – the composer still works in some of Jerry Goldsmith’s themes, but he also contributes some of his own work. It’s noticeably out of step with franchise norms in the opening scene, when the music sounds oddly playful and overwhelms the dialogue. Moreover, similar to the old X-Files the music is also kind of ever-present, which I found annoying.

      Reply

      1. Kk oh man u have lost so many points on my respect meter. Ok will perhaps let star trek 4 slide although compared to wrath of khan it really has dropped. Even 3 has some action. Psycho 4. Really? Anthony perkins paycheque mpvie. After psycho 1 and 2 even 3 that 4th one.. Ah not as good. Elm street just got weaker as the numbers in the sequels went higher. No 4th equals pants. Waiting for toy story 4 to break the trend hopefully.

      2. I don’t fully get the Psycho IV hate. A technically recovered Norman Bates calls a radio show therapist to admit he plans to kill his wife, and as a way to keep him on the line the therapist, played by CCH freakin’ Pounder, keeps him talking and spilling hits guts about his disturbed childhood. That’s a totally workable premise for a Psycho movie for me, even if the reality is indeed that it was just a paycheck gig for Perkins. It’s at least something totally different than any of the prior films. I’m not saying Psycho IV is amazing or anything. I just don’t think it’s terrible, which seems to be its reputation.

        Star Trek 4 – I get what you’re saying, but I never really think of 4 in comparison to 2, even though they form the opposite ends of a trilogy. I always think it in relation to 3 and how much better it is. Really, they’re all three very different films. 2 the swashbuckling adventure with big sci-fi ideas, 3 an oddly somber heist movie, and 4 a shits and giggles time travel adventure so clearly motivated by the environmentalism concerns of the time. Of those three, two of them work really well. Wrath of Khan is obviously the best of the bunch, but Voyage Home is a perfectly fun film, a worthy entry in the franchise.

        I would disagree about Elm Street. The fourth one has some of the franchise’s all-time best and most inventive imagery. The fifth and six ones, on the other hand, yeah, not so much. I wouldn’t exactly rank Part 4 above 3 or 1, but it doesn’t exactly embarrass the franchise.

      3. ok points taken for the rest, I guess its how you measure the fourth film to a franchise rather than in comparison to the other sequels. John Rambo wasnt bad either or Halloween 4 for that matter. On Psycho 4 how do you feel it measures to the recently concluded Bates Motel?

      4. “On Psycho 4 how do you feel it measures to the recently concluded Bates Motel?”

        Tells the same basic story, minus all the David Lynch worship, far quicker. Of course, Bates Motel had seasons upon seasons to build up to its inevitable endpoint and countless sideplots to create to fill up time. So, it’s ultimately the more rewarding viewing experience because you have so much more time to invest in the characters and Vera Farmiga and Freddy Highmore are better leads than the ones in Psycho IV. But if someone doesn’t have the time for 5 seasons of binging but wants to at least kind of know what Norman Bates was like before killing Norma I’d say just watch Psycho IV and call it good.

      5. and finally, what are your thoughts on the other tv sequel movie Bates motel with Jason Bateman in it. 1987?

      6. I’ve never seen it. I knew Bud Cort was in it but didn’t remember that Jason Bateman was. I’ve seen clips from the movie in documentaries on YouTube, but I’ve never watched the whole thing.

      7. Its utter toilet. Bateman was quite young back then. It implies that the motel had ghostly issues. It does do well to link to norman bates as the new and reformed but still odd protagonist is taken under normans wing whilst institutionalised. And for some reason despite his track record he is able to acquire the motel and sure enough strange things happen. But not too strange as this is television in the 80s and aimed at as wide an audience as possible. Guests come and go. One sleeps with a ghost. Consentual. Its all very very wrong.

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