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The Omen

1976 suspense/horror film directed by Richard Donner

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A classic that still has the power to chill

  • Oct 5, 2005
I had not seen this movie in about 15 years, when I decided to take a look. It was an old favorite of mine from my teen years...always loved the soundtrack. I expected that it would have aged pretty horribly...but BOY was I pleasantly surprised. It's a pretty darn terrific film.

The plot outline is hardly terribly original anymore. It would appear that the child raised by Diplomat Gregory Peck and his wife Lee Remick was "switched at birth" for the devil's child. This child is going to be protected by a number of evil forces, and eventually his position within a powerful family will lead him to power himself. Devil-spawn has been featured many times in films. But seldom with such a straight face. And it's that straight face that makes this movie work so well.

It's a mystery story, as Peck slowly begins to suspect something might actually be wrong. I suppose it helps the film to have an actor of Peck's stature take on such a role. One might think it would be belittling to such a towering figure...but Peck doesn't play it like he's embarrassed to be in the film, and thus the darn thing works. As he begins to put the pieces together, more and more horrific things happen to those closest to him. In the early going, he is aided by David Warner as a photographer who first notices something amiss. (I remember that Warner's rather graphic fate caused quite a stir 2o years ago...while we've seen worse on CSI: MIAMI since then, the scene is still remarkably affective.)

Everyone in the film is great. Peck is the anchor, but Billie Whitelaw as the "nursemaid" who comes to take care of little Damian is a powerful presence. She's a well-known British theatre actress, and she brings her steely power to the role and is the true villain. While it may be that Damian is the devil's child...he's only a tiny kid in the film. If we were actually supposed to fear and loathe this child, the movie wouldn't work. We'd either think it was exploitative or silly. But while he IS bad, he is still being manipulated by others. Even the terrific scene where he "bumps" into his mother by the upstairs banister (WHAT A GREAT SCENE!) is being directed by Whitelaw and the kid is just her pawn. He seems unaware of who he is.

Lee Remick as wife and mother has an underwritten role, but she does horrified well. Another classic scene involves the drive she and Damian take through an animal park...which causes quite a stir amongst the baboons. Imagine fifty crazed baboons throwing themselves at your car! Again, it's a scene that could have been silly, but the filmmakers handled it in a non-ironic way, and it is creepy. (The filmmakers never attempt special effects that were beyond the achievable...so while there's nothing fancy compared to what could be done with CGI today...there's also very little that doesn't look believable.) David Warner is effective in his smallish but important role.

In some ways, the film plays like an episode of The X-Files...the supernatural wrapped up into a more conventional mystery/investigation story that gets weirder as it goes along. But at the core is a layer of sadness. Peck and Remick have been deprived of their biological child and given this heavy burden in its place...a child that must be destroyed. We feel the sadness in Peck...not just the fear and horror. That measure of empathy is what is missing in some many horror movies today...now we like to wink at the camera and acknowledge how silly what we're doing is. Yet the best horror movies are still the ones that play it straight...that believe we are still capable of being creeped out.

I found watching THE OMEN to be a very pleasant surprise. If you haven't seen it in awhile...it's still holding up well. And if you've never seen it, I think you might be surprised that a 25 year old film can still raise some serious goosebumps even now. (By the way, the "R" rating would be a "PG13" today. Judge accordingly.)

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More The Omen reviews
review by . October 02, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
**** out of ****     Impalements, decapitations, religious undertones, and indeed, predictions of unfortunate events to come are all things that characterize "The Omen" to make it the classic that it is regarded as today. What I've mentioned already has been done in films both before and after this one; but they haven't quite done it like it's done here. "The Omen" surprises and scares in the most bizarre of ways, ranging from pure shock value to actual atmospheric creepiness …
review by . December 03, 2003
posted in Movie Hype
The whole plot of THE OMEN revolves around the idea of the anti-Christ growing up and living amongst us, unknown to anyone until it's too late. The premise of the film is somewhat interesting, and was a farely new concept when the movie was released, but has become common place nowadays. The "scariness" of THE OMEN isn't in blood and guts, but in the shock value: we barely see a nanny hang herself outdoors from a window, but it is shocking; we've been told that Damien's mother was a jackal so when …
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I've got my own site, www.afilmcritic.com, on which I'm posting my reviews. I am 46 years old, married 25 years, two kids (23 & 18) and currently work in accounting/finance. I spent 15 years … more
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About this movie


AfterThe Exorcistsparked a lengthy trend of supernatural thrillers, this 1976 horror film scored a hit with critics and audiences for mixing gothic horror and mystery into its plot about a young boy suspected of being the personification of the anti-Christ. (No doubt it's a favorite of shock-rocker Marilyn Manson.) Directed by Richard Donner (best known for hisSupermanandLethal Weaponfilms),The Omengained a lot of credibility from the casting of Gregory Peck and Lee Remick as a distinguished American couple living in England, whose young son Damien bears "the mark of the beast." Mysterious deaths and unexplained incidents draw the attention of a photographer (David Warner), whose investigation leads to the young boy--and also to the photographer's shocking decapitation (in a scene that has since been inducted into the horror hall of fame). At a time when graphic gore had yet to dominate the horror genre, this film used its violence discreetly and to great effect, and the mood of dread and potential death is masterfully maintained. It's all a bit hokey, with a lot of biblical portent and sensational fury, but few would deny it's highly entertaining. Jerry Goldsmith's Oscar-winning score works wonders to enhance the movie's creepy atmosphere.--Jeff Shannon
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