“On the Beach” is not so much about the end of the world, as it is about a large group of people who have to come to terms with the fact that they will die very soon. As most of the world has been destroyed by nuclear radiation, survivors have huddled in a small town in Australia far away from the fallout. But they soon learn it’s headed their way thanks to wind currents, and there’s no stopping it. We then view the requiem of mankind, as government officials continue to struggle to find a way to solve the problem, and then face that there’s simply no solution.
From there on, we follow a small group or characters that have managed to find a temporary safe haven from the radiation and rather than submit to panic and terror, they use their last days of sealing old scars, confronting old conflicts, and saying goodbye to the ones they love dear. Among a brilliant cast of performers like Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, Anthony Perkins, Donna Anderson, and more, Kramer visits various ideas about life’s regrets and unfulfilled potential we never reach thanks to death.
Most tragic of the dilemmas involves Peter Holmes who has a beautiful newborn daughter, and knows that she won’t be able to see it through a year. He and his wife Mary are constantly embroiled in the lingering reminder of apparent death, while Mary is in pure denial and is certain all is not lost, especially when a crew journeys into the city in a submarine to answer the Morse code SOS from an apparent survivor. The most interesting element of “On the Beach” is the idea of the inevitability of death, and how one must accept it as a phase of life whether it approaches sooner or later.
“On the Beach” is one of the few thrillers that never attempts to sugar coat what is inescapable, and Stanley Kramer further induces that theme as he features desolate cityscapes of the highly radiated San Diego void of any human life or corpses, as well as droves of people lining up at hospitals to receive their cyanide pills. Even moments of happiness like fishing and romance are blanketed with sheer dread. Director Kramer’s drama is a bleak and heart wrenching tale of the end of the world, and a beautiful masterpiece about humanity’s last days for better and for worse.
It’s very satisfying to see a director who understands Superman and gets the ideals and goals he strives for. Sure he’s a super man with god like abilities, but it’s not his place to bend humans to his will and make them follow his desires. At the end of the day, Superman understands the fragility of humanity, and he also comprehends that despite being a hero that’s taken on gods, and aliens, even the smaller problems count from time to time. Sarah is on her way out of the city set to venture out on her own and isn’t intent on going back home any time soon. While sitting in the park, she’s approached by a seemingly mundane bespectacled man in a blue suit who explains he’s a reporter.
She can’t understand why she’s so important, but the reporter is insistent and is abler to charm her enough to where she can open up to him for his “interview.” Director and writer Thomas spends the majority of the short film defining Superman and exploring common questions and themes that have alluded many people for decades about the character. Who else to understand Superman than Metropolis’ ace reporter Clark Kent? Soon enough, the pair are discussing the idea of beings with powers, humanity, and how we all matter in the scope of life, no matter how minute our problems may seem in the long run.
Erin Brown Thomas and John Nagle perform very well, providing fantastic chemistry and conveying the dynamic of wayward youth and wise hero well. John Nagle is the perfect Clark Kent and might even be a bang up Superman, presenting an excellent amount of humility and empathy to make him a noble crusader, even when he’s simply sitting around in a suit and tie. Thomas has a small budget to work with but aspires for larger than life storytelling, emulating the awe inspiring more misunderstood traits of Superman and conveying that it doesn’t take an actual superhero to change someone’s life and steer them in to promise and success. I hope we see more from Jake Thomas very soon. Hell, I’d even love to see him tackle Superman yet again.
For anyone like me who take interest in the concept of parallel worlds, director Russell Emanuel embraces the found footage sub-genre while also dodging the gimmicky trappings in favor of a much more intelligent genre title involving the scientific idea. “Occupants” explores the theory of parallel realities, and how it’s theorized our lives can align with alternate versions of ourselves. Much like “Paranormal Activity,” Emanuel sets his film primarily in one setting, but the similarities end there. Emanuel has his finger on the pulse of science fiction, exploring a realm where every movement is intricate and our characters begin to dabble in the God Complex resulting in some absolutely horrendous consequences.
The only terrifying thing about “Ouija” is that there’s going to be a sequel. In the final scene our main character holds up the pointer to the screen to look in to it, almost as if warning us that a second part is inevitable. It’s horrifying to see how little is made up of such a paper thin concept. If it didn’t take itself so seriously, I think “Ouija” could have been good old fashioned fun. It should have been a self aware and very tongue in cheek horror comedy about a board game that channels ghosts. Almost like a supernatural Jumanji. Instead we’re given the cinematic equivalent of a sleeping pill that fails to channel anything horrific in its entire ninety minutes.
Orion starts with a prophecy to which the film comes back a few times, a prophecy about a virgin mother giving birth to a child who will become a tree and about a traveler who will change the course of things. The movie starts with the traveler seemingly going from place to place aimlessly and the virgin mother giving birth only for the magician to plan her baby to her dismay. She wants to leave but has little hope for survival, until the traveler comes upon their door in need of shelter and food and the magician decides to take him in for the night, and then commences the long process of saving her and himself from the magician who, according to rumors, cannot be killed. All of this happens in a desolate wasteland after what looks to have been an apocalypse.
One thing I never understood about Damien Thorne is his character as a whole. Is Damien pre-programmed to be evil? Did his disciples and handler have to brainwash him to believe his God is the only God? Did Damien believe this stuff? And why does he seem to fully embrace his role as the anti-Christ in the third film when in the second film, he was a young boy struggling with his urges for good and evil? What clicked in him to inspire him to continue his plan for world domination?
And once he dominated the world, what then? Is he the one who rules the world or does he hand the duties over to the dark lord of the underworld? In either case, “The Final Conflict” is the final leg of the “Omen” series, where Damien has finally risen to power. He now runs the Thorne Industries and has no one to defy him. He’s wealthy, and powerful, and now he’s making a play to campaign for ambassador. Over the course of his teens in to his adulthood, the one lone Damien is now a man with an army behind him.
Not only does he have a handler, but a league of believers, many of whom are willing to do Damien’s bidding with his flick of a brow and a smile. Sam Neill is adequate as Damien Thorne, presenting a smarmy and very smug quality to the character. I would have depicted Damien as something of an unassuming man, but Neill is able to salvage his miscasting by making Damien likable. He’s a clean cut young politician with youth on his side, and he begins taking a liking to the son of a journalist who he thinks has promise in the evil business of destroying mankind.
As the followers sight a sacred constellation, Damien realizes the second coming of Christ at hand, and now in order to prevent it, he must murder the first borns of every family in the world. Meanwhile, he persists in dodging the assassins that have made it their mission to murder Damien and end his reign of tyranny. He does this in the most bad ass methods imaginable, first posing as someone, which ends in a confusing murder of an innocent person, and then turning hunting dogs on their master, possessing them in to eating him alive. “The Final Conflict” was not the final conflict as we witnessed with “The Omen IV: The Awakening,” but for a last outing of the original trilogy, it’s a solid last adventure for Damien Thorne and his evil plan to rule the world.
The Full Moon space western “Oblivion” certainly is one of the most creative films to come out of Charles Band’s imprint. Surely, it can be silly and hard to follow, but it works well as a space western, and a western without the science fiction conventions. I was surprised this even had any monsters or aliens, as “Oblivion” works as a typical Western. Sans the giant man eating scorpions, of course. I digress. “Oblivion” is written by comics scribe Peter David and is admirably ambitious considering its obviously low budget.
Director Richard Donner’s “The Omen” is the fall out of the success of “The Exorcist.” And while it does subscribe to the evil child formula that became prominent after the success of the William Friedkin movie, it doesn’t try to top the former in terror. “The Omen” reaches for heights of slow boil horror followed by immediate shocks, and even for a film once considered a wannabe of “The Exorcist” it stands alone as a wonderful horror thriller.