This is what is known as a “four-waller” — a movie without a movie studio to distribute it that its makers handle by renting theatres in which to have their movies shown. For years, this was the exclusive province of exploitation pictures. Now it appears to be the favored method for presenting “morally uplifting” films that can’t find normal distribution. Apparently, it worked very well for the original Omega Code, which became one of the most financially successful independent films of the 1990s. Megiddo: The Omega Code 2 is a more elaborate attempt to follow that formula. Leaving theological questions to one side (something the filmmakers seem to have done anyway), Megiddo is basically a weary retreading of Hollywood’s already none-too-inspiring Omen movies. The difference is that those movies were at least openly out for thrills and chills. Here we have a horror movie that wants to pretend it’s something more — that something being an edifying discourse on matters Biblical. What no one involved seems to realize is that bookending the movie with some scripture, dropping quotations and misquotations from the Bible into the dialogue and making sure the frequent violence stays firmly rooted in the bloodless realm of the TV movie does nothing to elevate the film beyond the confines of a movie like Omen III: The Final Conflict. Indeed, Megiddo looks and plays like nothing so much as a bargain-basement version of that film. I hardly think that’s what its producers had in mind, but it’s what they ended up with. Assembling a surprisingly solid cast of once-luminous name actors such as Michael York and Franco Nero, as well as cult performers Udo Kier and David Hedison, and notable supporting players Michael Biehn and R. Lee Ermey (the latter cast as the President of the United States!), the film almost offers the illusion of a mainstream work. Unfortunately, this illusion is quickly buried beneath bad-scripting, worse direction, and scads of unconvincing CGI special effects that look like a cross between a video game and a Japanese Godzilla picture. It’s difficult not to enjoy Michael York’s over-the-top scenery chewing as Satan in his human form (Satan ultimately crawls out of York’s head and becomes a bat-winged CGI effect), though some of his scenes are clearly toned-down rehashings of ones with Sam Neill in The Final Conflict. (Admittedly, Neill never yakked up a plague of locusts.) And there’s no denying that Udo Kier’s “Guardian” is effectively creepy (if a little distracting because you keep expecting him to spout lines from one of his Andy Warhol-produced horror films), but those are in the area of guilty pleasures. This isn’t supposed to be the point of the film, is it?. But what were the producers of Megiddo thinking? What were they thinking when they had God arbitrarily blast the Coliseum of Rome out of existence in a fit of pique because He’s cheesed with Satan? Is the film deliberately pandering to xenophobia in its depiction of most things foreign (with the curious exceptions of Mexico and China) as so thoroughly sunk in moral depravity that they’re beyond consideration, let alone redemption? What message are a group of religious broadcasters trying to send out when they make a movie with the line, “People believe anything they see on television,” in it? I’ve no doubt that the people behind producing Megiddo are quite sincere, but the results are unpersuasive and riddled with troubling questions — as well as just plain bad filmmaking.
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