4.12.2008

The Omen (1976)


Director – Richard Donner

Starrring -
Gregory Peck - Robert Thorn
Lee Remick - Katharine Thorn
David Warner - Haber Jennings
Harvey Stephens - Damien Thorn
Billie Whitelaw - Mrs Baylock
Patrick Troughton - Father Brennan

Year - 1976

Rating - 3.5 Howls Outta 4

Evil seems to come in many forms. Osama Bin Laden. Barney The Purple Dinosaur. Paris Hilton. Tom Cruise. Evil is in the eye of the beholder. What if your child was born evil, destined to rule the world with an iron fist from Hell? If it were me, I put the little bastard up for adoption. Unfortunately, not all families have that luxury until it's too late. Hence, The Omen.

PLOT
Katherine (Lee Remick) and Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) are a rich, political couple who move to England from the States. Katherine is pregnant, but loses the baby at childbirth while in Italy. The news of the baby's passing is kept from her. Robert, knowing how much Katherine really wanted a child, decides [why the hell not] to replace the dead newborn with another newborn, whose mother had died during childbirth. Don't you just love it when lies keep a family and marriage from falling apart? Anyway, Katherine believes the child to be hers and names him Damien (Harvey Stephens). Five years pass and we see the happy family living the perfect life. During his 5th birthday party, strange things begin to happen. The first occurs when Damien's nanny hangs herself...all for Damien. Here, Damien sees an evil dog with red eyes, taking a liking to the animal. The family then employs a really weird and creepy nanny (Billie Whitelaw) who seems to know who, or should I say what, Damien is. The nanny plants herself to be Damien's guide to his destiny. A priest begins pestering Robert at this time, exclaiming that the antichrist was really the son he had adopted secretly. Robert doesn't believe this at first, but eventually does when the priest's prophecies begin coming true. Meanwhile, Katherine wants nothing to with Damien, suddenly feeling as if Damien really isn't hers. This leads to the creepy nanny sending Damien out for a tricycle ride, leading to Katherine's arm being broken as she falls from a balcony. The priest also dies as well, after warning Robert of Damien's purpose. Enter a photographer (David Warner) who helps Robert try and discover the truth about Damien. Here we learn about the triple 6s, which all relate back to Damien. The photographer falls victim to Damien's destiny, making Robert realize that he must stop Damien on hollowed ground once and for all.

REVIEW
It's definitely a classic horror movie, in the vein of The Exorcist [which was released three years prior] and Rosemary's Baby [2 years prior]. While creepier than Rosemary's Baby, it doesn't hold a candle to the Exorcist. The good thing is that it doesn't try to be. While the movie tries to be suspenseful, it doesn't really work as we're more frightened by the fantastic ways the victims in the movie die [pretty impressive ways, I must say, for a 1976 film]. There's hardly any gore, but it doesn't need it. We're pretty creeped out by the entire situation, knowing that Damien is the son of the Devil and that his future will lead to Armageddon. It's more of a thriller than an actually guts and blood horror movie, and I can appreciate that.

Again, I must say that the deaths in this movie impressed me alot, especially in 2006. I won't say who dies if you haven't seen either version of this film, but you get a pretty neat decapitation and a metal pole stabbing right through someone during a lightning storm. If you get a kick out of the deaths you see in any Final Destination flick, you'll definitely get a kick out of these. Whoever did those scenes ought to be applauded and really bring the nerve factor up.
The acting was pretty decent in this film too. When you have Gregory Peck in a movie, it definitely raises the film's respectability. While not an Academy-Award worthy performance as you'd usually expect of him, he does make the character of Robert sympathetic. You can see the pain when he loses his natural child, and you can see the joy when he brings Damien into the family. You can also share in his horror when his world goes upside-down because of the decision he made. I didn't really feel sorry for him when it came to his fate at the end, but I can at least understand why he lied to his wife and adopted Damien.
Lee Remick was pretty much the token wife for much of the movie, until her behavior changed once she realized that Damien wasn't who she thought he was. I must say that the scene where the baboons attack her car with her and Damien inside was probably the most intense scene in the entire film. I read that the baboons really frightened her while filming the scene, and by God, does it show. I think the best scenes in a film is where the actor puts themselves into the characters, and Ms. Remick sure did that!
David Warner as the photographer was good. He did what he had to do, so I can't compliment or complain his performance. I did enjoy how his character used the photos he took as a way to see how his subjects would die [which all came true, by the way]. Yes, Final Destination 3 ripped the premise from The Omen. Originality is pretty much dead, people.
Billie Whitelaw's Mrs. Baylock upped the creep factor. Her smile sent chills down my spine.
And I really liked Harvey Stephens, who played Damien. I don't like child actors in horror movies usually, but he really made me like the character. Yes, I know he's gonna grow up to be an evil bastard. But how can you not smile when his behavior is so angelic, with thank yous and this infectious smile [especially the one at the end where he looks at the camera]. Plus when he pleaded with his father not to kill him - I felt bad for Damien. He was a victim in this whole situation, even though he's the son of Satan. He was just a little boy who wanted to love his mom and dad. Although at the end of the film, you get a sense that he wanted what happened all along, yet I liked the kid. He had a big presence, unlike the one in the remake, who I didn't care for all that much. Stephens was central to the story and he pulled it off perfectly.

And I can't finish a review without talking about the infamous score that won composer Jerry Goldsmith an Oscar. The gothic sounds of the music creep you out, because you know something bad is gonna happen to someone. Disturbing Latin chants ring in your ears - everytime I hear that theme, I always think of the Omen. The score is probably up there with other horror classics like Halloween, The Exorcist, Psycho, and Jaws. Just great stuff there and an Oscar well-deserved.

I really like The Omen. Though some parts did bore me a bit [the search for info about the triple 6s and Damien's real mother for example], there is a lot of good stuff in pretty much 90 percent of the film. I really liked the ending too, even though it set up a sequel, but it made you guess as to who lived and who died for a moment. Gregory Peck did an admirable job with his struggle to cope with the world crumbling around him...not like I've been disappointed in any movie he's been in. He sweeps the audience with him, and we get caught up with his search and struggle to understand the truth about his son. Good script, great directing by Richard Donner (Superman, Lethal Weapon), and a classic horror score --- I definitely recommend this film to anyone who wants to watch a good Halloween movie. Watch this in the dark and you'll never get that song out of her your head for days. Fuck the other parts and the remake [which was horrible in my opinion]. The original Omen is essential viewing for anyone who loves a shot of gothic horror and great thrillers.

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