The Omen (1976)

The Omen is a classic, that's for certain, but it's a cursed one. Car accidents, lightning strikes, a finger shut in a door... all that and more on the film set. Here's the thing, though, when we watched it all of our electronics stopped working and we damn near almost forgot to post this review. So (if you dare) watch the trailer below, then watch the movie, then come back and read our thoughts on it after the break. You've been warned.

 

 

 
 

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Jake: Welcome to October, kids. We wanted to do something a little different to celebrate horror’s favorite month here at A-Z Horror, so we… well, we did basically the same thing we always do. But with a twist! All three of us idiots picked one movie that is truly, madly, deeply representative of the month of October. Each was then berated for making said choice. Rinse, repeat. Now here we are, reviewing the first hand picked flick on the list. Tell the people what it is, Jack, you fuckin’ dink.

Jack: The Omen. The original Omen. The 1976 one which . . .

Jake: So I’m going to have to stop you right there. What is “Halloween” about The Omen? It doesn’t take place around Halloween, nor was it released then. How does this scream the season in your twisted head?

Jack: Well here’s the thing. Number 1, we couldn’t choose Halloween. So then I’m thinking to myself that sure, I could pick a movie set on Halloween or that is super Haloweeny or whatever, but I wanted to go deeper. This movie is a Halloween movie to me because it just feels like one. I caught this on a trip with my pops when I was a little kid, and we watched it, made fun of it, and continue to have it on around Halloween time to this day.

Jake: Let’s cut right to the chase. This is a pretty weird movie. It’s essentially about the Antichrist choosing the least efficient means imaginable of rising to worldly power. For what? Sport? Were there some crazy prop bets being thrown around in hell regarding his escapades?

 

 
This week on phoned in visual gags: What bets on Damien's next stunt looked like, probably...

This week on phoned in visual gags: What bets on Damien's next stunt looked like, probably...

 

Jack: Right off the bat this doesn’t play like a traditional horror movie. Our protagonists are Robert and Katherine Thorn, played by Gregory Motherfucking Peck and Lee Remick, respectively. Robert is the US Ambassador to England, and his college roommate is the goddamned president. Katherine is pregnant and in Rome for some reason, and she gives birth to a stillborn baby. Rather than grieve about that with her, Robert decides to adopt another infant as his own, tell his wife that it’s their natural child, and name it Damien. Does not go well.

Jake: So for the duration of the film, Robert and Katherine proceed to just sort of serve as a conduit for Damien to fuck things up. They are basically the vehicle he uses to circuitously deliver set piece kills, which are actually done in a pretty unique, and for the time, shocking way.

Jack: And the first one comes out of goddamned nowhere. It’s Damien’s birthday, and there’s lots of fun and frolicking when, all of a sudden, Damien’s nanny is perched atop the mansion’s upper story window sill and screaming about how “It’s all for you Damien!” She leaps, and is viscerally hung and smashes through the window on the floor below. They show all of it, and it’s unexpected, gnarly, and pretty ballsy, especially for the area. Just check this shit out.

 
 

Jake: Yeah man, that shit was nuts. But the Thorns aren’t sans nanny for long. Some dame by the name of Mrs. Baylock comes to fill her place... by just showing up. Who the fuck called this woman? I get that someone as important as the U.S. Ambassador to the U.K. would find it easy to just reload on staff when they hang themselves, but goddamn. Was there any background check on this broad? Were there any competing candidates? Are the thorns an equal opportunity employer? That seems very unamerican… wait...

Jack: There’s more weird shit, because a random photographer named Keith ends up obsessed with Damien and his family. Turns out his pictures are prophetic, in that shadows in the pictures he takes end up showing how that person will eventually die. Weirdness of his character aside, the foreshadowing through photography thing is cool, and pretty inspired for the era.

Jake: The photo thing is a pretty novel concept. I know this isn’t the only implementation of magical photos that provide foreboding insight on future events. We just saw The Ring and it was a part of that film. But it’s one of the earliest I can think of. That being said, it’s another example of the underlying absurdity of this film. All of the kills that happen in the movie are the product of ridiculous, Rube Goldberg-esque sequences of events that HAD to be more trouble than they were worth for Damien. If he's the Antichrist, he wields his miraculous powers in such an extremely bizarre and convoluted way that I’m forced to assume he’s just doing all of it for shits and giggles.  

 

 

Basically how Damien kills folks.

 

Jack: For sure. Why even bother going to the trouble of killing anyone around Damien so that their deaths could possibly be foreshadowed by a photographer who looks like a founding member of the Yardbirds? But that does lead to my favorite scene of the movie: the priest telling Robert that his wife is pregnant, and Damien will kill the child, so Robert needs to travel to the land of Median and meet a man named Bugenhagen (if that wasn’t funny, you should listen to our podcast, because trust me, it’s absurd). But turns out he was right, because Damien lightly shoves his ‘mom’ over a bannister, who in a staggering confirmation of the “butter-side-down” phenomenon, contorts herself unnaturally so that she lands fetus-first. By this point, Keith has figured everything out and calls up Robert out of the blue. “Hey, I know you’re the US Ambassador and that I’m just some creep who’s camera you broke one time, but hear me out on this: your son’s the devil, and you and I need to go on a buddy-cop-style adventure to Rome.” Shockingly, Robert is fully on board with that.

Jake: So off they go, back to Italy to get to the bottom of Damien’s origin. They find that the hospital their kid was born/died in had burned down after they left and that asshat who convinced Robert to adopt Damien, Father Spiletto, is all fucked up. He manages to help point them to a cemetery though, where they find a grave with a jackal carcass and their own child’s skeleton, its skull caved in. Immediately, they are chased away by some more dogs. None of these die by the way. In a horror movie. There are like eleven hundred dogs, and none die, at all. What? Talk about your Shyamalan twists...

Jack: Eventually they do meet the man named Bugenhagen, who tells Robert about a ‘666’ tattoo that Damien will have if he’s the anti-christ, and that to be killed, he’ll have to be stabbed with seven mystical daggers. And this is pretty much some Temple Underwear shit at this point. Meanwhile in London, Damien’s new nanny has gone bananas and gotten Hulk-strength and thrown Katherine right the fuck out the window, killing her.

Jake: The Katherine death scene is shocker number two in this flick. Shocking in that it wasn’t caused by some elaborate sequence of events, and shocking because she falls like seventeen stories and plows right through the roof of an ambulance. It was actually pretty awesome. I’m not sure what it was about Katherine, but she sure was fated to fall to her death.

Jack: You know, I don’t have too much to say before the next big death scene. Robert decides he can’t do it, and jettisons the Temple Daggers, but our photographer friend doesn’t give up so easily, and tries to pick them up. Rube-Goldberg-Damien won’t let that happen of course, so what we get is a terrific and insane scene where a truck carrying an enormous plate of glass stops short, releasing the glass, which de-fucking-capitates our photographer / bassist from Cream friend.

 

 
 

Jake: This scene is bonkers, man. It’s hilarious on so many levels. First, it’s made to be Damien inflicted, so it follows proper Rube Goldberg form. Second, the ridiculous filming of the decapitation from multiple angles, complete with replays, really makes it feel more slapstick than anything else. Third, it's a fucking pane of glass. How does it make such a clean cut, and how does it cauterize the wound? Maybe it’s because Keith is made of papier-mâché.

Jack: I don’t know man, and you know what? It doesn’t matter even at all. This scene is so good. I love it so much. It’s over the top and crazy, and way out of left field, especially given what this movie has already shown us. At this point, Robert is sure that Damien is the anti-christ, and resumes his daggery-duties. But not before total confirmation in the form of finding the ‘666’ birthmark at the hairline of an impossibly heavily sleeping Damien.

Jake: Yeah… So he’s the Antichrist. And you know what? This is all I have left.

 

Because how could we not reference this.

 

Jack: Robert takes Damien to a church where he tries to stab him with 7 daggers, but before he can use even 1, he gets shot by British police whom I’m pretty sure don’t carry guns . . . so yeah . . . more Rube Goldberg shit. Robert’s dead, so naturally, the fucking president adopts Damien, because you know, line of succession I think.

Jake: Iron Maiden spoke my piece. Ratings.


 

RATINGS

For 1, think of how George Brett would rate the reliability of his sphincter:

 
 

 

For 10, think of how a secretive branch of the US government would rate the quality of men they have working it:

 
 

STORY:

Jake: 6 - Props for a secretly batshit plot, Omen. Props. There is actually a fair amount of relatively novel shit going on in this one, particularly for the time. So that’s, interesting I guess?

Jack: 7 - Are there problems with this plot? Yes. However it’s an extremely innovative plot that wasn’t based on a book or another movie or anything. This is ridiculously original, especially for a horror movie, and plus you can correct a lot of the plot by just saying “it’s the anti-christ, and he’s doing it for sport.”

 

WORLD BUILDING / IMMERSION:

Jake: 4 - And here is where having a sort of secretly batshit plot catches up with the movie a bit. The unbelievable (I mean that quite literally) set pieces are fun, but really leave you scratching your head. I also think Gregory Peck’s quality hurts it a bit on this front because he is a good actor, and the vast majority of this movie has a sincere/serious tone. It makes for an awkward and immersion breaking balance whenever Damien debauchery occurs.

Jack: 4 - I really don’t have much to add to what Jake said. The era, the crazy plot, the entirety of the suspension of disbelief being religious based - none of that shit is helping. Just not particularly immersive.

 

SCARE-FACTOR:

Jake: 3 - Not scary. If one is extremely religious, I would see how the whole Antichrist posing as your child thing would be quite a dreadful concept, but then again, draw the venn diagram of those people and people who would ever watch this movie and tell me what that looks like.

Jack: 3 - Some of this is a little frightening. Your son not being who you think he is? That’s scary. Terrifying silhouette rottweilers menacing you? That’s scary. All of the religious bullshit? That doesn’t scare me for half of a second.

 

EFFECTS (OR JUDICIOUS LACK THEREOF):

Jake: 5 - The sound effects are actually pretty good and I think the score is well done. The Damien theme (strings going bananas) is high quality. As for practical effects, these are all over the place. The hanging scene and the scene where Katherine falls to her death are both well done, but the lightning rod impalement and the beheading are fucking absurd. Also, don’t get me started on that gunshot at the very end.

Jack: 5 - Right down the middle of the road. The hanging scene looked good. The others looked less good. But the scenes were few and far enough between that they exercised pretty good restraint.

 

OVERALL:

Jake: 5.5 - This may seem like a low score for a movie the stature of The Omen. So here’s the thing; this is a horror classic. But this is a horror classic that I sort of question. I’d recommend it for a watch more in terms of rounding out ones checklist of films than for any sort of present day utility. There’s enough here to like, but I’m not writing home about it, nor am I losing sleep over it.

Jack: 6 - Sitting down to just watch this with no context? This score’s lower. But this isn’t that for me. I recognize the bias, but fuck, this is the movie I watch with my pops at Halloween. This is a movie I have on all the damn time in the background during the season. It’s quotable, and you can look up and see either Gregor Peck being awesome or an absurd and over the top death.