Damien Season 1 Episode 1: “The Beast Rises”
Directed by Shekhar Kapur
Written by Glen Mazzara
Created by Glen Mazzara
Starring Bradley James, Barbara Hershey, Megalyn EK, Omid Abtahi, Scott Wilson, David Meunier, Tiffany Hines, Sam Anderson A&E
Air Date: Monday, March 7th, 2016, 10pm
Richard Donner’s The Omen (1976) is legitimately the scariest movie I ever saw. As a young kid, I made it an hour before I ran screaming from the room and slept with the light on for weeks. I couldn’t get Jerry Goldsmith’s Oscar winning score out of my head, and I had nightmares of the theme, “Ave Satani.” While The Exorcist (1973) is more notorious, The Omen was more subtle, relying on the music, and editing to create horrific moments, rather than persistent gross out shocks. So when I heard a show based on one my favorite horror films was coming to the network that already has one of the best horror shows on TV (A&E/Bates Motel) I was psyched. I was even more psyched after watching the premiere episode “The Beast Rises,” the 33-year old version of myself was similar to the 9-year old; after watching it, I stayed awake another 2 hours unable to sleep.
Damien Thorn (Bradley James) is celebrating his 30th birthday in Damascus, Syria where he and his colleagues are working as photojournalists. As religious tension rises in the city, things begin getting out of hand between baton waving police and the crowds of civilians. Damien is a good person it seems, he helps a kid separated from his mother. When an old woman (Viv Moore) is knocked to the ground, Damien is there to help, and that’s when the weirdness begins.
“Damien I love you! It’s all for you,”
Then her eyes rolls back white and she mumbles on in Latin. Damien sees blips, fragments from his childhood (scenes from the 1976 film), including his nanny saying the same phrase before committing suicide via hanging at his birthday party. He doesn’t remember any of his childhood, and he encourages his fellow photographer and ex-girlfriend Kelly (Tiffany Hines) to help him track down this woman.
We understand quickly he is a man with high ties. In New York, he mentions the head of the IMF owes him a favor, and a strange woman named Ann Rutledge (Barbara Hershey) knows an awful lot about him. She claims to have known him since he was a little boy – she was at his father’s funeral. For those who haven’t seen the original film, Damien’s father discovers his son’s true identity and is shot trying to kill him on a church altar. Hershey is, pardon the pun, “devilishly” sly and chillingly menacing. The following interaction backed by a simple yet effective score gave me the chills.
Damien – “What exactly is your job?”
Rutledge – “I suppose it would best be described as, the protection business. I look out for ‘special interests.’”
Damien – “Whose?”
Rutledge – “My line of work, discretion is paramount. The key is to always maintain a presence, without letting people know you’ve been there all along… right over their shoulder… every step of the way.”
Damien begins to realize there is more to his own identity then meets the eye. Kelly has video of the old woman and translates the Latin, tracing it to John the Baptist’s baptism of Christ. She digs up some other information linking back to Damien’s father, and the death of photographer Jennings (David Warner). This leads them to the home of a professor of biblical studies with the hope of answers. The Professor (Sam Anderson) takes one look at Damien and, well… you just know he knows. The look of pure dread on his face speaks volumes. He gives the necessary exposition for those who haven’t figured out the plot or are unfamiliar with the film.
“They recognized him by his number, 666… Does this mean anything to you?”
I don’t want to spoil anymore. Suffice to say Damien learns more about himself and not everyone makes it out in one piece. Like the film, freak accidents tend to occur around Damien. The show completely captures the unnerving feel and the unnatural tension of Donner’s classic. Even as an adult, there is something about these characters that totally freaks me the heck out. I watched the premiere once, and then again to write this review, and both times at the same parts I got legit goosebumps, chills down my spine, and I found myself hearing things and frantically looking around. The music, while not Ave Satani, is subtle but powerful. And Bradley James seems more than capable of handling himself in the lead. Between this and Bates Motel, A&E is building a powerhouse lineup of classic horror movies turned shows.
Damien premieres Monday night, March 7th at 10:00pm ET, right after the 4th season premiere of Bates Motel on A&E.
Damien: ’25 Years Later’ Behind the Scenes | Mondays 10/9c | A&E
Check out this ‘Behind the Scenes’ Trailer based on the iconic horror film, “The Omen,” the new drama series, “Damien” premieres March 7th at 10/9c, following the Season Premiere of Bates Motel at 9/8c.