Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Omen


  The Omen is a classic. Through and through. In fact, I think it's one of the few 'classics' from the 70's-80's era of horror that totally deserves it's reputation. It holds up incredibly well. It brings to mind Rosemary's Baby, as if it was a variation on a theme. If Rosemary's Baby played up the horror and suspense of something potentially evil growing inside of the main protagonist, The Omen is the aftermath, which is just as terrifying. Evil is typically personified as big scary brutes with a weapon of the week and something hiding their face, or a disfigurement. I hear 'evil', I think Freddy, or some larger than life portrayal of Satan. I don't, however, think of cute little kids.

  But what if you were faced with a cute little kid who was genuinely evil? The son of the devil even? Would you believe it? Would you kill him? Could you...? The Omen asks all these questions and makes you ask them to yourself as well. Gregory Peck, Lee Remick and David Warner head up the cast in this fine horror thriller and they all perform admirably. The majority of the movie is on the shoulders of Peck's Robert Thorn as he slowly starts to become convinced that his son is indeed something evil. While we're watching Robert, I can only imagine his wife, Kathy (Remick), is going through her own version of Rosemary's Baby.

  She even discovers at one point that she's pregnant. Robert is warned by a mysterious priest that young Damien won't allow the new baby to be born, and once he's killed it- he'll kill his mother. Eventually, Kathy's therapist explains to Robert that she believes Damien is indeed evil. I can't help but wonder what she's seen and been through while the story focuses on Robert. There's a whole secondary horror movie lurking just under this one, one that we don't get to see much more than glimpses of. Yet, it's frightening all the same as my imagination ran wild.

  Eventually David Warner's paparazzo character makes an important entrance into the movie and enlists the help of Robert to help him get to the bottom of the mysteries surrounding Damien before more lives are lost. While it's no big secret that Damien is obviously evil, the movie is done in such a way that you can still be on the fence about it right up to the end. Of course, if you still believe he's just an innocent little boy by the time the credits roll, we're going to have to have a talk. Jerry Goldsmith's haunting and powerful (if not a smidge overbearing at times, but still great nonetheless) score will leave you without a doubt in your mind. Not to mention the acting of the young boy behind the eerily innocent stares and smiles of Damien himself.

  The Omen performs like clockwork, each piece that went into making it fits like a cog between gears, all clicking and turning to achieve a richly haunting atmosphere, and to make a sweet little boy seem like the spawn of Satan himself. If you mute the movie, or swap the music, it's not as scary. If you re-edit it, Damien could be a kid in a car commercial, and we'd be none the wiser- it's all the parts, working together, that deliver the scares and the eerie feelings. Most of that goes without saying, but it really struck me that they didn't rely on any cheap shortcuts in this movie. Damien didn't have red glowing eyes, or a sinister scowl. Nothing that would've landed this movie in the area of camp and cheese, and the movie is all the better for it.

  In the hands of any other director, guiding a lesser cast, some of the material in the movie would be outright silly. Yet the collaborative efforts and skill behind The Omen sell even the most preposterous scenes as outright frightening and creepy. It's always hard to analyze a classic because most of what can be said, has been said- yet this was my first time watching it, and it says a lot that a desensitized guy like me would get creeped out it. Nothing traumatic, but enough to make me sit on the edge of my seat and make sure I'm not holding my breath. The Omen is directed with masterclass efficiency and delivers some great old school supernatural scares. You can't go wrong with this one.

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