Dir. Richard Donner (1976)
When a US ambassador’s newborn son dies, he decides to adopt another newborn whose mother died during childbirth without telling his wife. This proves to be a mistake.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
The Omen is renowned for being a creepy, possibly cursed film, but it’s one that isn’t often talked about nowadays despite its longtime popularity. It has resurgences from time to time, thankfully, because it’s creepy as fuck and an incredibly well-made film, not to mention one of the few horror films to actually get an Oscar nod. It’s classic Hollywood horror all the way down, including the star of the film, Oscar winner Gregory Peck in his second film about an evil child who may potentially take over the world. It’s also written by David Seltzer, who also penned the remake of this film, Prophecy (the giant mutated bear one), and, uh, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Directed by Richard Donner, who would later go on to helm Superman and The Goonies, the film was determined to make a serious horror film that had its basis in real-life, eschewing any paranormal or supernatural occurrences that would make the film less believable than a story about the Antichrist taking residence in a small boy is already wont to be.
The entire film is intended to make the audience question whether the child is actually evil or if his family is deranged and losing their grip on reality: the deaths that occur are all potentially accidental, despite the presence of the most evil babysitter in history and a pack of wild dogs that seem intent on eating anyone who questions the background of the child. There are no deaths, until the end of the film, that cannot be attributed to simple carelessness or mistake, giving the entire film an air of mystique not unlike Rosemary’s Baby, which saves its reveal about the true powers behind the events within until the legendary finale. For The Omen, however… this is a bizarre choice, because these questions are answered almost immediately after the film starts with one of the best (and creepiest) scenes in horror movie history.
Damien, the potentially evil child/jackal hybrid, finds his fifth birthday to be a resounding failure due to the hanging suicide of his nanny, who throws herself from a balcony after yelling out to those gathered for the party that “it’s all for you, Damien!” It’s an incredibly effective scene, and for my money, one of the scariest ever filmed. It’s such an off-putting scene, one that sends shivers down your spine while “subtly” clueing the audience in that things aren’t quite what they appear. Or maybe they’re exactly how they appear, I don’t know: the kid is creepy as all hell, after all. Unfortunately, things slow way down after this scene. While the scares are there, especially for those who are religious and identify with the plot points, it moves much too slow to be effective in modern day. It always feels somehow disrespectful to say things like that, because The Omen is undeniably a classic, but if you’re taking your picks of what to put on and you don’t already have a soft spot for the film already, you’ll find much more entertainment in something made in the last 25 years.
Who this movie is for: Fans of classic horror, Religious horror nuts, Sons of jackals
Bottom line: It’s a slow journey, but one absolutely worth taking. It’s deliciously creepy throughout, especially if you’re a fan of religious horror. The lore behind the film, which ranged from the deaths of crewmembers to planes being struck by lightning, is scary as well, earning the film one of the top spots on the allegedly Cursed Films list. It’s more Rosemary’s Baby than The Exorcist, but if you haven’t seen this one before, you owe it to yourself to watch it at least once. From my recollection, the sequels were worth checking out as well, especially for people like me who love Sam Neill. The remake? Not so much.