TV Review - Damien (2016)
Bates Motel is a weird and creepy prequel that references its horror film in subtle and nuanced ways, and from the jump had compelling characters and a propulsive plot. This series isn't weird or creepy at all. It's not even scary. It's stupid. It certainly isn't subtle or nuanced. It references its horror film in bold and very clunky ways. This is probably because it's a more-direct sequel rather than being a prequel. From the jump though, its characters, particularly its protagonists, aren't compelling and the plot definitely isn't propulsive. It's not even interesting, at least not based on the first episode, which made me never want to watch another episode again.
Bradley James (Merlin and iZombie) stars as Damien Thorn, the 30-year-old version of the character in The Omen (1976), the aforementioned, horror film, which is the inspiration for this. What the movie was about that this show doesn't understand is the true horror lied in a demonic child, the image of innocence, that of a cute little boy, juxtaposed with Biblical ideas of evil within that child. Having a 30-year-old man in that position loses immediately what the movie was about.
Bates Motel didn't lose what its movie was about. Its horror film was ultimately about the relationship between a boy and his mother, a relationship arrived at through a crime plot. Bates Motel maintained that theme and that aspect, while also crafting a modern story. I'm unsure where this new series will go, but at the start it's not about that parental fear that was a staple of The Omen.
Developed by Glen Mazzara, a writer and producer for The Shield and The Walking Dead, the show inserts clips from the actual, 1976 film, which is what makes the whole thing clunky. The events of that film is meant to be this show's actual history, but for some reason Damien doesn't remember. That film is supposed to reveal that Damien, as a little boy, is believed to be the Antichrist, or the "Devil's own son."
Given that history, I presumed this show would be similar to the new FOX series Lucifer, which is about the Devil on Earth. Instead, Damien here is a war photographer who travels to Damascus, Syria, to document the people there. All of a sudden, a random woman opens his eyes to his back-story, which he didn't remember until then.
I even thought that this series would be a kind of remake of The Omen, but one drawn out with deeper explorations of the family dynamic. I also felt the series could have been a riff on Rosemary's Baby (1968) with James playing the role of John Cassavetes but having the narrative be from his point-of-view.
Sadly, what Mazzara does is so generic and boring. He can do things that calls back to the '76 film but he didn't seem to learn anything from it. As the first episode ends, it's totally unclear as to what the direction of the show is. What is its trajectory? It's not even like Lucifer where it's obviously being a glorified cop show. This show feels like nothing but just a series of references to 1976.
One Star out of Five.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Mondays at 10PM on A&E.