Trivia The shot of Lee Remick falling to the floor was done by building the "floor" on a (vertical) wall and dollying an upright Remick backward towards it.
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The Omen (1976)
8th Jan 07
After agreeing to swap a now motherless baby for his own which was born stillborn, American Ambassador Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) finds himself wondering just what he has taken into his care when young nanny Holly (the late Jack Palance’s daughter also called Holly) hangs herself with a big smile on her face.
There’s also a manic priest by the name of Father Brennan (Patrick Troughton) who just wont leave him alone and to top it all off, a photographer Keith Jennings (the excellent David Warner) has approached him with evidence that just might back up the dotty priest’s claim about Thorn’s adopted son Damien (Harvey Stephens) being the Antichrist.
Any genre fan out there that is still reeling from the sphincter-clenching mess that was director John Moore’s 2006 version of the 1976 classic needs no prompting from anyone to revisit Richard Donner’s original horror blockbuster to take away the horrible aftertaste. Sure things got a little silly with the sequels Damien: Omen II in 1978 and The Final Conflict in 1981 but both were better than standard for sequels and more than compensated for the frankly dire The Omen IV: The Awakening that terminated the franchise in 1991.
Effective and under-the-skin scary enough to leave you a little creeped and thrilled throughout, right up till the final frame of young Damien turning to smirk at the camera, The Omen may lack the high voltage shocks that other devil kiddie flick 1973’s The Exorcist pumped out but makes up with the fact that it has dated better overall and boasts a number of moments that all vie for the award of ‘Best Bit’, not just for this film but any film.
Consider these… you want mayhem at a child’s fifth birthday celebration in the form of a ‘happy’ hanging? You’ve got it! Wanna see baboons go ape (sorry couldn’t resist) at the son of Satan at Marwell Safari Park? A photographer decapitated by a sheet of glass? A Rottweiler attack in a graveyard? A failed priest being impaled by church spire? The pregnant wife to the ambassador falling from the upstairs balcony / hospital window? Yeah, got that too!
Donner’s The Omen is a treasure trove of key moments and may even give you pause to think about things as you switch off come the final credits. Consider my younger relative who couldn’t sleep for a week thinking he would be offed in some spectacular fashion for having watched the film and knowing who Damien really was. So Ok that’s a tad dramatic but it apparently had people revisiting The Bible to see how relevant the script actually was.
Where The Omen really zooms above the horror competition is with its Oscar winning soundtrack which many (stupider) people seem to confuse with Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. Every time the orchestration kicks in followed by THAT Latin chorus I dare anyone not to feel even just the slightest bit thrilled. It sits up there nicely with Bernard Herrmann’s Psycho score, John Williams’ for Jaws and Carpenter’s Halloween as one of the very best musical accompaniments to a big screen shocker if not arguably THE best.
Outside the movie’s score the other BIG stand-out comes in terms of the framing. Donner has a penchant for shots of eyes and none come any scarier up close than Billie Whitelaw as Damien’s replacement nanny Mrs. Baylock. Check out the shots when Lee Remick’s Katherine Thorn turns to see Baylock advancing on her in the hospital ward - first Katherine’s eyes freaked out as she realises that perhaps she isn’t going to make it out alive after all and then Baylock’s gleefully malevolent eyes are shown in response as a big NO. It’s great editing and is an excellent example of the work done throughout.
Standing head and shoulders above big studio horror The Omen deserves its place as one of the better examples of how the genre really can work, still managing to coax goose-bumps and shudders from viewers thirty years on.
On the two-disc set there is an abundance of extras to whet the appetite of any hardcore fan and even those that have the 25th Anniversary Edition may be interested at some of the extra stuff here.
New stuff includes a ‘Coming Soon’ featurette that is a very effective trailer for the 2006 remake - showing all sorts of things taking place in the modern world that could be construed as the end of the world - that manages in just around a minute and a half to be more involving than the Moore remake.
Inside Look is yet another shameless plug for the remake this time showing the trailer that starts with the cute Rottweiler panting away whilst some pampered sprog swings on an um, swing and pouts menacingly – it doesn’t work sorry!
Much better are two yak tracks both with director Richard Donner, one with the movie’s editor Stuart Baird and another with writer/director Brian Helgeland who wrote Donner’s 1997 pic Conspiracy Theory. The real pluses for me were the deleted scene showing the dog attacking the car as Robert Thorne attempts to get young Damien to the church on time, and genre favourite Wes Craven telling us why he admires The Omen so much. A complete a package as a fan could wish for.
Versions This review is taken from 20th Century Fox's 30th Anniversay 2-disc edition.
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