There were stretches of this where I was wondering if the film had been intended satirically. I’m talking about laugh out loud moments of hilarity that never once winks at the audience, everything supposedly meant to be taken super-seriously. There are just so many weird choices throughout, from narrative, to structural, to musical, and to performance that never really come together into anything really coherent, entertaining, or even remotely scary. I doubt that it’s much of a mystery why the first director, Dominique Othenin-Girard quit the production halfway through, necessitating the quick hiring of Jorge Montesi as his replacement. This film was wrong from the get go.
A married pair of lawyers, Karen (Faye Grant) and Gene York (Michael Woods), arrive at an orphanage to adopt a newborn baby girl. The nuns that run the place seem to have a secret to hide, and there are weird events happening, like a neat moment where a classroom of children all turn their heads a split second too early, supposedly reacting to a bell, that’s kind of creepy. Don’t worry, though, absolutely none of this matters in the slightest. Some of the characters come back, but the ominous moments in the opening simply don’t matter. It’s helped none at all by the fact that this film is way over-scored. There are hardly any moments where there is no music over the soundtrack. There are times when it drowns out normal dialogue. It’s all based on Jerry Goldsmith’s quality work on The Omen and Omen III: The Final Conflict, meaning that it’s bombastic and operatic. However, when the film is lensed like an early 90s television movie (which it was), meaning very bright, flat lighting that does not lend itself to the cinematic absurdities of the visuals of the first film, it honestly feels like a parody of The Omen instead of an earnest sequel.
One of the weird things about this film is that scenes are very short. For large bulks of the running time, scenes seem to last about thirty seconds or less, giving us one little look at things and then moving on to see something else in the same timeframe. This is particularly egregious in the opening act of the film as it skips and jumps through the first ten years of the little girl’s life, giving us little vignettes of the girl’s evilness. Named Delia (Asia Viera), she scratches her adoptive mother’s face as an infant, her tormenting of a mean boy in kindergarten, her general isolation, and a hilarious beheading of the father of the boy. Really, I shouldn’t have been laughing so hard at that, but I was.
Where this movie started getting into parody territory in my mind was the introduction of Jo (Ann Hearn), Delia’s nanny. Jo, you see, is a New Age crystal adherent, and she is suddenly pitted against the Devil’s granddaughter. This is honestly the sort of thing that someone writing a parody of The Omen would come up with. The devil’s granddaughter against healing crystals! It’s ludicrous, and it’s made all the funnier when Jo takes Delia to a Psychic Fair, every psychic feels Delia’s evil presence, they get a picture that shows her aura (evil, dark, violent, of course), and then the whole place burns to the ground. The funniest moment, though, is Jo’s death. The filming is so flat, the editing so clunky, the music so over the top, that when Jo gets pushed out of a second story window by the big rottweiler that somehow formed a hole in the bedroom door I suddenly burst into laughter. I don’t think the moment was intended as comedic, but it certainly came off that way.
This could be the kind of bad movie to laugh through, but it ends up being surprisingly dull in its second half. With Jo dead, Karen decides to employ the services of a private detective, Earl Knight (Michael Lerner), to look into the origins of Delia. At the same time, Karen ends up pregnant with her own child. Knight goes on his search, eventually finding one of the young nuns from the orphanage having become a snake handling preacher in North Carolina. This search is plodding and slow, ending with Knight getting hit by a wrecking ball in one of the movie’s few decent death scenes.
Then we get some final reveals about how a bunch of side characters are actually acolytes of Damien Thorn, Delia and her younger brother are actually Damien’s children (the second child birthed by Karen being through some underexplained medical procedure, but it’s fine), and that they will bring about the Apocalypse. Filmed in quick scenes that never let any sort of settling into the action to help establish any kind of emotion, it just goes on quickly by until the end of the film.
There are moments of this film that are unintentionally hilarious, but most of it is just kind of a slog. The acting is all very pedestrian, helped in no small part by the very boring cinematic approach by its dual directors, made all the worse by the operatic score adapted from Jerry Goldsmith by Jonathan Sheffer. If this film had been much better, I wonder if there would have been an attempt to get it to actual movie theaters, but as it is, Omen IV: The Awakening died a deserving death on television.