THE OMEN. (1976) DIRECTED BY RICHARD DONNER. WRITTEN BY DAVID SELTZER. MUSIC BY JERRY GOLDSMITH.
STARRING GREGORY PECK, LEE REMICK, BILLIE WHITELAW, DAVID WARNER, PATRICK TROUGHTON, HARVEY SPENCER STEPHENS, LEO MCKERN, JOHN STRIDE AND BRUCE BOA.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
I’ve always thought that supernatural horror movie THE OMEN is one of the best films ever made in any genre, period, let alone just best horror. It’s superbly-made, scripted, casted and acted from start to finish, and I’ve always felt like there was this pervading sense of evil coming off of it that would seem to tie in exactly with the claims from the crew that one disaster after another befell them while they were making it.
‘It felt like someone- or something- didn’t want this film to be made,’ they said. Sometimes I think I believe them.
Gregory Peck (MOBY DICK, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL, etc.) plays Robert Thorn, the handsome and distinguished American Ambassador to England who does an extraordinarily foolish, if well-intentioned, thing.
When his wife Kathy gives birth to a stillborn child, in order to spare her pain and suffering, he allows himself to be talked into substituting a live baby boy for the one they’ve lost. This turns out to be a bigger ‘Oooopsie!’ than he could ever possibly have imagined in his worst nightmares.
And ‘nightmare’ is exactly the word for it. Their new son Damien is in fact the unholy spawn of Satan. Dontcha just hate it when that happens? Can’t even illegally adopt a child in a foreign flippin’ country without its turning out to be Beelzebub’s snotty brat. Well, you gets what you pays for, I always say…!
Seriously, though, as Damien grows older, his parents can’t help but notice that people have a tendency to die horrible deaths when their son is around. Patrick Troughton, a terrific Hammer actor whom I always particularly remember from THE SCARS OF DRACULA, plays the priest who desperately tries to impress upon the sceptical Ambassador that their son is, well, who he is, and that he must be stopped before he brings about the end of the world. Which, you’ll admit, would be hellishly inconvenient for all concerned, no pun intended.
The padre even gives Robert the name of a man who can possibly put a stop to the Satanic little tyke’s nonsense. It’s always handy when you can get the name of a man that will fix your problem. Funny noise coming from the engine, leaky radiators, slow and sluggish sperm, Napoleonic delusions, your son being the Antichrist. Robert will be glad of that name before too much more time has elapsed…
There are some truly horrific and memorable deaths in the film, and any number of scenes that could quite easily make it onto a 100 SCARIEST MOMENTS list. Without giving too much away (I hope!), here are my favourites:
The nanny at the birthday party, of course. The priest in the deserted churchyard in the middle of the strange and sudden gale-force wind. The dark and isolated graveyard in a foreign place with the dogs. Any scene with big black dogs in it, in fact. Mrs. Baylock’s last stand. I’m getting chills just thinking about these nerve-shredding scenes.
Billie Whitelaw is magnificent and terrifying as the nanny who comes out of nowhere to take care of wee Damien. She scares me so much in this, even more than she did when she played Mammy Kray to Ronnie and Reggie from SPANDAU BALLET in that marvellous crime biopic.
David Warner is superb also as Keith Jennings, the journalist who tries to help Robert figure out the exact origins of his God-forsaken nipper. You might recognise him from STRAW DOGS (1971), in which he did a tremendous job of playing mentally defective local sex offender Henry Niles.
There are a few other faces amongst the cast whom you might recognise. John Stride as Kathy’s psychiatrist was great in Roman Polanski’s MACBETH. RUMPOLE OF THE BAILEY, aka Leo McKern, plays ‘the man on the Essex Road’ who can discover the source of the funny noise coming from under the bonnet of the Ambassador’s car.
That’s a bit of an obscure joke, referencing both comedienne Jo Brand and early ‘Noughties romantic comedy ABOUT A BOY starring Hugh Grant. I’ll leave it in though, just in case…!
Bruce Boa as one of the Ambassador’s aides is the American tourist who so rudely demands something called a ‘Waldorf salad’ from John Cleese’s Basil Fawlty in ever-popular British sitcom, FAWLTY TOWERS. I think it consisted of ‘walnuts, apples, celery, grapes in a mayonnaise sauce,’ which sounds kind of gross but, you know, whatever floats your boat.
And rest in peace, by the way, to poor Andrew Sachs who played Manuel the Spanish waiter in the show. His comic genius will never be forgotten. Now bring me my Waldorf salad before I whack you upside-the-head with my wife’s copy of Harold Robbins’ latest rubbishy offering…!
Now, back briefly to THE OMEN. It’s naturally won a ton of awards but my favourite of these is the Oscar for Jerry Goldsmith’s original song for the movie, AVE SATANI. It’s magnificent. And bone-chillingly frightening as well. The Latin chanting and the scary choral bits and the words which mean: ‘We drink the blood, we eat the flesh, raise the body of Satan…!’ F***ing hell. Literally…
The film spawned many great sequels, by the way, including one in which Damien is a girl(!) and the best one sees Sam Neill playing the grown-up Damien who has apparently developed a taste for backdoor shenanigans, otherwise known as anal sex. The dirty little dickens…!
I’ll finish by saying this. I believe in the Devil. Okay, so he may not have a pitchfork and a long tail and horns and eat at McDonalds but there must be some source of all the evil in the world, some reason for it. This film scares me more than any other horror movie because it could be real. Who are we to say it’s not? There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in (y)our philiosophy, after all.
And then there’s that pervading sense of evil that seems to emanate from it like a stinking miasma. Maybe it’s just my imagination working overtime. Maybe it’s the brilliant film-making involved. Who knows what it is? But it’s there, and to me it feels real. Make what you will of that, dear readers. Make what you will…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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