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The Omen

1976 suspense/horror film directed by Richard Donner

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Unpleasent but truly frightening chiller.

  • Oct 2, 2011
**** 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 (courtesy of Jerry Goldsmith's Award Winning original score). I loved it back when I saw it about two years back, and I still love it now. In fact, I think I love it even more that I've seen various homages to the film, and have already seen it once. It's the kind of movie that actually improves the more times you see it; you begin to appreciate it more-and-more each time, up until the moment where you realize that it's very much possible to love it. It's a brilliant film; not only for its genre, but as a film...in general. It inhabits the "religious horror" realms of its genre, one of my favorite places to be when watching a film like this one. Strong religious messages and themes in films like this one can often elicit some sort of response - good or bad - from me, even though I wouldn't call myself religious. "The Omen" does not require me, you, or anyone to be; and that's what I love about it.

Most horror films are defined by what we see, what we hear, and what we feel; not necessarily what we're told. A lot of horror films that I like rely on atmosphere, surrealism, and pure imagery over story; which they often have, but some aren't so lucky. This is one of those rare genre pictures that has it all; and yes, that includes an outstanding, intelligent plot with characters that we care about. It's wonderfully acted and takes an intellectual approach to its material; much unlike the mediocre remake, which actually isn't all that bad, but by no means can it measure up to the craft exercised here.

A child dies in labor. The father, Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) is told this through-phone by a priest; who instantly gives him an alternative to being the messenger of bad news. He asks Mr. Thorn if he would like to adopt a new child; and not have to let his wife (Lee Remick) know anything of it. Robert takes the priest up on his offer, and takes the child to his wife. They name their baby boy Damien.

The film, being within the horror genre, does not begin like most films of its type do - or should. We know it's a horror film from the beginning because (1.) we've most likely heard of it or know the plot details, (2.) the film's opening consists of creepy music playing over the credits, and (3.) there's always a sense of dread. Yet, we are treated to scenes where the Thorn family is happy. Eventually, five years have passed; Robert has been named U.S. Ambassador of Great Britain (where the family now resides), and little Damien is celebrating his fifth birthday. Things are going well until the nanny gleefully - all too gleefully - hangs herself from a noose.

As the audience, we see more than the characters genuinely do. When the new nanny (Billie Whitelaw) comes along, we know things aren't going to end well between her, Damien, and the Thorn family. We see black rottweilers prowling gardens and at one point, even the insides of the Thorn mansion; the source of their presence being the nanny, who let them in to "protect" Damien. There's also a photographer who has observed some strange things in his photographs containing a presumably paranoid priest who speaks of bad omens, terrible future events, and the true nature of Robert's son. In time, we've come to terms with reality; Damien is not a sweet innocent child, he may not even be human. He has been given the ability to control animals and even other people at birth. He is, as you probably know, the Antichrist; the son of Satan. This is confirmed in many ways, so many ways that, in fact, I'd be spoiling too much if I went any further.

This is such a smart movie. "The Omen" makes use of whatever it's got; Gregory Peck, the original score, the cinematography, and the religious elements of its story. This is some seriously well-researched and intellectually stimulating stuff, people. In the end, I can say that I was very pleased; and I was. I'm genuinely tired of the genre crap that Hollywood tends to send our way nowadays; and "The Omen" is a fresh reminder of better days, in other words, the days when Hollywood still had potential in this industry of horror. Instead of just gory and shocking, "The Omen" is suspenseful, creepy, smart...and also gory and shocking. This is not a horror film that is meant to be "fun" or even "playful". It isn't a party movie by any stretch of the imagination. But in the sense that its subjects are handled in such a disturbing but delicately caring matter; it's still entertainment nonetheless. This is a real horror movie; the kind I live for. It doesn't get much better than this, it really doesn't. Shame on he who hasn't seen it yet; for "The Omen" defines a time, a generation, a style, and of course, scenes of decapitation and grotesque grandeur.

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More The Omen reviews
review by . October 05, 2005
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
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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Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … 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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