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The Omen (1976)

DVD Cover (Twentieth Century Fox Collector's Edition)
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7.5
 / 10
22 votes
Movie Connections:
The Omen
> The Omen (1976)
> The Omen (2006)
Genres:
Horror, Religious Horror, Supernatural Horror
Director:
Richard Donner Richard Donner
Starring:
Gregory Peck Gregory Peck
Lee Remick Lee Remick
David Warner David Warner
Billie Whitelaw Billie Whitelaw
Harvey Stephens Harvey Stephens
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Review by Chad
Added: November 09, 2007
Back in the seventies, supernatural horror films that dealt with Satanism (or Satan himself), demonic forces, or possessions were the big thing at the box office, sort of like remakes and pointless sequels are today. It pretty much goes without saying that this flood of releases was due to the overwhelming success of The Exorcist, and what would follow for the next decade or so was film after film that attempted to become the next big thing in this subgenre. Some achieved success while others were quickly forgotten about, but for my money, the one that comes closest to measuring up to William Friedkin's classic is The Omen.

Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) plays an American ambassador who soon discovers that his son Damien (Harvey Stephens) may be the Antichrist. Now, note that this statement isn't something along the lines of an insult out of Private Parts; no, this kid has a 666 birthmark on his head, enrages animals with his mere presence, and even has his very own demonic nanny (Billie Whitelaw). Unbeknownst to Robert's wife Katherine (Lee Remick), however, the kid isn't even her own flesh and blood. You see, her child died shortly after being born on June 6th at 6am, but as luck would have it, another child had been born in the same place at the same time... a child whose mother died giving birth to him. The priest encourages Robert to take the child as his own and hide his true identity from his wife; after all, what she doesn't know can't hurt her, right? Right? Well, wrong, as we'll soon discover.

Things start going downhill once he reaches five years of age, as his nanny decides to commit a very public and very grisly suicide during little Damien's birthday party. This is pretty convenient for the forces of Hell, as it allows the aforementioned demonic nanny to step in and "take care of the little boy" for the grief-stricken parents. Little do they know that - with the help of her menacing rottweiler - this particular nanny plans to take care of Damien and protect him from his own parents once they realize what he is and that he needs to be murdered to save the world.

To cut to the chase and be blunt about it, The Omen is damned near a perfect film that deserves to be compared to The Exorcist. It's not as good as The Exorcist, mind you, but c'mon: what film is? To say that The Omen is good enough to even be considered comparable to The Exorcist is a compliment, and it's also one that I'm not going to hand out lightly. What makes this one work so well is the way that the filmmakers chose to stick to the things that made The Exorcist work so well: demonic forces at work, a religious battle between good and evil, and plenty of real-world facts to give it that haunting "what if?" factor are all in abundant supply here, but at the same time, it never once feels like a cash-in or a ripoff of The Exorcist.

The story takes its time in unfolding, and even though I felt that there were scenes where it took a little too long to unfold, I must say that this method of storytelling worked wonders with this content. This leads to a slow-burning feeling of dread in the audience, and once the spooky shit starts happening, it's actually much more effective than it would have been had they just plopped it on the screen like most of today's directors would have done. Take, for example, a scene in which two of the characters are attacked by dogs in a cemetery: this scene would sound silly on paper if I spelled it out for you, and if you were to see the scene outside of its original content, it wouldn't be anywhere near as powerful. However, this scene is downright chilling when one watches it play out after all of the buildup, and from there, things just get better.

All of this is made that much better courtesy of impeccable performances from all involved. The parents, the priests, the other characters who come into play later in the running time, and of course, little Damien himself are all played by extremely talented actors, and honestly, I couldn't finger anyone as turning in even an average performance: everyone here was on top of their game, and this led to a multitude of characters that the audience could get behind. I was also pleasantly surprised at how well the child's character was handled; it's no secret that I despise children with leading roles in horror films, but this little kid was perfectly handled as he's never shoved down our throats or taking up all of the screen time... even though the film is all about him. Oh, and did I mention that the actor playing this kid just looks downright evil?

Again, The Omen is damned near a perfect film, and it's certainly well-deserving of the "classic" status that it receives. It may have spawned a number of sequels of varying quality, but the original deserves a spot on any horror fan's shelf. 9/10.
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Cryptorchild #1: Cryptorchild - added 11/09/2007, 10:58 PM
Thank you for finally reviewing this film. For me, this movie is perfect. I think it's pretty frightening and I give it a 10/10.
Ginose #2: Ginose - added 11/10/2007, 10:52 AM
Satan horror is always going to be my favorite horror sub-genre. 10/10
grain of sand #3: grain of sand - added 11/12/2007, 03:28 AM
though they hold the same 'satanic horror' element, I view this and the exorcist as two different worlds.
I love them both, but I favor this one more out of the two. seeing them both at a young age I always found this plot a lot more possible and realistic.
love this movie, I love everything about it.. 10/10
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