Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Final Destination series versus The Omen series

I watched the execrable remake of The Omen (2006) and came upon a scene that made watching it worth the pain. The film confirmed my point that secular and theological accounts of death in cinema are the condition of the other and thus haunted by each other. If the Final Destination (FD) series is based on the premise of "death's design" (a parody of creationism) the Omen (O) series based on the premise that the anti-Christ has returned (the series is the spawn of Rosemary's Baby, its sequel, as the casting of Mia Farrow in the remake of the Omen as the evil any makes clear) and must be killed. The Omen remake restages the binding of Issac as Abraham's preemptive strike against the Devil the son (as opposed to God the father). The premises of both film turn quickly into their opposites: the guy being interviewed at the start of FD 2 immediately turns out to be as a kooky as an creationist, while the crazy priest in the Omen turns out to be right; moreover, the agency of God is indistinguishable from the agency of the devil--is the lightning strike on the Church a sign of God? Is the closing of the Church doors done by the devil?; images of Jesus on the cross are crosscut with images of the father holding down the son as he is about to stick about eight knives into him as far as they can go in front of the Church altar, inviting us to see a parallel between God and the father (both crazy infanticidal maniacs). Formally, both series share the same sequencing of death and the same assumption that death can be seen reflected in photographs and predicted. Both have relatively episodic plots. The Omen remake looks more butchered than edited. Wholes sequences are inserted with terrible awkwardness between shots that suggest an impossible and illogical continuity between them. The near murder of Mom by stepson is ripped off from The Shining and unbelievably prolonged. But the really telling moment in The Omen remake comes when the photographer is killed, just after asking "what if I'm next?" Running after the knives Liev Schreiber has just discarded in disgust and sounding like a total kook for being willing to kill the boy, the photographer is beheaded by a swinging metal ladder in a sequence straight out of one of the FD films. In cinematic terms, the logic of death turns out to be the same whether the film's premise is that death occurs because of death (there is no God in the FD series) or because of the devil (the Church turns out to be powerless, the space of a psychotic breakdown for the father who fails to murder his evil "son" or where priests are locked out (the Church doors close by the themselves, the same way they do in the FD series), excommunicated and killed by "freak" accident). The horror film genre depends on this dynamic. Carrie is a great film precisely because it internalizes it (Carrie's Christian Mom is evil and crazy but also right about Carrie). A p.s. The final shot of Damien smiling at the viewer is ripped off from the final shot of John Huston smiling at the viewer at the end of William Dieterle's brilliant Devil and Daniel Webster (which is a lot scarier).

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