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The Omega Diary   B-

Spectrum Films

Year Released: 1999
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Benjamin Cooper
Writer: Benjamin Cooper
Cast: Warren G. Hall, Catherine Barlow, Monty Wall, Scott Bentley, Mark Brunasso, Mitch Adams.

Review by Michael Scrutchin

The Omega Diary is a flawed but thought-provoking low-budget psychological thriller. Russell (Warren G. Hall) is on a road trip to the California coast with three of his buddies: Cyrus and Paul (Scott Bentley and Cyrus) are both goofballs, but Vietnam veteran Stan (Monty Hall) is as intense as they come. Once they get to the coast, they run into a guy named Kincaid (Mitch Adams) on the beach and start downing a few cold ones with their new friend. Russell sets his sights on the beautiful Amber (Catherine Barlow), who has come to the beach all alone. They flirt a bit -- even though Russell has a wife and daughter back home -- but she makes it clear that she doesn't want a relationship.

On the radio, they hear reports that the former Soviet Union has sent tons of nuclear missiles heading toward the States. Nuclear holocaust is approaching -- and they only have minutes before its too late. The mysterious stranger, Kincaid, leads them to his grandfather's bomb shelter...where they remain throughout most of the movie's running time. As expected, when mice get cooped up together in a small cage, tensions mount, and they begin to turn against one another. And when Kincaid secretly shows Paul his grandpa's old pistol the only question is, who's gonna die first?

When you restrict a movie's entire length to mostly one location, you run the risk of your audience getting bored or frustrated pretty quick. Success is possible -- Reservoir Dogs was set mostly in an abandoned warehouse, Night of the Living Dead in an old farmhouse -- but in The Omega Diary the space is even more confined. It's a bomb shelter -- really only two rooms, both of which are quite small. Fortunately, writer-director Benjamin Cooper takes advantage of this the best he can and creates a truly claustrophobic sense of impending doom.

The cast wasn't bad, but the only real standout was Monty Wall as the brutally intense Stan, who pretty much becomes the oppressive dictator inside the bomb shelter. Wall is great at making you absolutely hate his character, but it would have been nice to see a glimmer of humanity underneath his meaner-than-hell exterior. Other than that, none of the performances here really grab you like they should.

The Omega Diary isn't as tight or convincing as it could be, but sometimes the film's intensity can creep under your skin and get to you when you least expect it. Making an intriguing film set in one place can be tough, and first-time feature director Benjamin Cooper did an admirable job. It'll give you some things to think about, and there's a twist in store that's a real kick in the face.

Review published 05.12.2000.

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