Omen, The (1976)

The Omen (1976), directed by Richard Donner.

First review

I hadn't seen this for decades, but the characters all seem so familiar, probably because they have been reused and lampooned in later movies: the troublesome photographer (David Warner), the sinister nanny (Billie Whitelaw), the guilty, crazed, incoherent priest (Patrick Troughton, Doctor Who #2), and the amoral scientist who knows just what to do (Leo McKern, the real #2).

Less stereotyped are parents Gregory Peck and Lee Remick, gradually realizing the awful truth the audience has known since before the lights went down. Remick fears she is going insane and sees a shrink. Peck really does go nuts; how else to work up the will to kill a child you have come to believe is the antichrist?

As religious horror it has some good aspects but is a bit pale compared to The Exorcist (1973). A research topic: when (and why?) did children become proper subjects of evil in movies? Village of the Damned (1960), The Bad Seed (1956), that sort of thing.

As was common during that period they use some sort of lens filter that puts a star or cross on bright points of light; here they look like prismatic fans. It's an interesting effect but can't be good for the fine detail.

Jerry Goldsmith's score was, unbelievably, his only Oscar win. He has this really great "machinery of hell" motif when the car approaches the church wedding. The music is very "up front" throughout, more common then than now.

Available on Blu-ray.

Some thoughts on demoniacal horror movies. I care for only one small sub-genre, best represented by some of the episodes of Chris Carter's Millennium TV series with Lance Henricksen. In a lot of fiction (and rock music album covers) "evil" is represented as majestic and alluring, which of course it must be to be seductive. In the series evil is never any of those things, it is just... sad. The tragic, elegiac, autumnal tone to this treatment is appealing in a different way. I don't know if many movies take this approach; Fallen (1998) with Denzel Washington might be one.

Finally, Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman is a pretty good comic novel about the Beast and the Apocalypse. The first section contains a satire on The Omen: the son of Satan is supposed to be born to an American diplomatic family in Britain, but the babies are accidentally switched at the hospital... [Later: Expanded into a TV miniseries].

Second review

Additional notes and new thumbnails.

It begins with a lie and you might think that is dad's unknowing pact with the devil. It ends with the antichrist's sly smile and evil has won.

But think again. The lie was done out of love: dad's substitution of a baby to spare his wife pain. In the end Damien lives because his father hesitated to stab and murder him, a human response. Maybe Satan has won this battle, but not yet the war.


Available on Blu-ray with two commentary tracks:

My thumbnails are from an old Blu-ray; I believe it has been remastered since.