Welcome to Psycho Drive-In’s 31 Days of Schlocktober celebration! This year we’ve decided to present the ABCs of Horror, with entries every day this month providing Director information, Best-of lists, Genre overviews, and Reviews of films and franchises, all in alphabetical order! Today brings us O is for Omen! Few things make me happier than sitting down every holiday season to watch 1976’s The Omen. I have seen it hundreds of times, yet I cannot pass up a chance to watch it a sing “Eat some pizza! And spaghetti!” along with the choir singing “Ave Satani.” Richard Donner, the director who brought us Superman, Lethal Weapon, Scrooged, and The Goonies (!!!), first brought us The Omen. U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) and his wife, Katherine (Lee Remick) live in a picture perfect world. They are wealthy, privileged, in love, and happy. Everything is going fine until a series of strange events and deaths seem to surround their young son Damien (Harvey Stephens). A priest named Father Brennan (Patrick Troughton) discovers that Damien is the Anti-Christ and dies just after warning Robert. With the help of a photographer named Jennings (David Warner), Robert is left to piece together the evidence that Father Brennan has led him to. In the end, the fate of the world is left in Robert’s hands when it is up to him to destroy Damien. Where to even start with this great film?! The Omen just does so many things right. It contains some of my favorite death scenes. Katherine dies when she foolishly is standing on a chair right next to a banister on the second floor of her home. Damien rides a tricycle and “accidently” bumps the chair, sending Katherine over the banister and onto the floor below. Everything about that scene is done so smoothly. The use of practical special effects and camera trickery is what makes the deaths so sublime. Of course Lee Remick does not fall to her death, but everything about that scene makes us believe she did, even right down to a goldfish bowl falling down with her and fish left to squirm and gasp on the floor with her dead body. All of the details are there. Whenever I walk by a similar banister in my own home, I cringe and second guess how I can clean it because this scene has been tattooed on my brain. Another great death scene is when Jennings is decapitated by a glass pane. It is remarkable and cringe worthy even to today’s audiences who have become calloused to such death scenes by the (over)use of CGI. Imagine seeing the decapitation scene in 1976? I am getting goose bumps just thinking about it. Such a scene had not been viewed before and it is still to this day one of the best death scenes. It is a highly unlikely death. Everything has to be timed just exactly right. It is still plausible. A freak and sad accident could happen at any time. It is also such a terrifying death. You can see the “Oh crap!” look on Jennings’ face as he realizes that he is doomed. The cute and charming dimply cheeked Harvey Stephens is a perfect Damien. He looks innocent and adorable. The dichotomy of the Anti-Christ being adorable and innocent looking is wonderful, especially when you realize that Damien is in full control of his powers and carries an awareness of who he is within him even though he is just a young boy. The storytelling in the film is remarkable. The audience is right alongside Robert as he and Jennings slowly discover piece by piece the mounting evidence that Damien is not an innocent sweet little boy. Peck, Warner, and Remick all deliver splendid performances as they slowly journey into a spiraling descent of terror upon realizing that Damien is pure evil that can destroy the entire world and bring about Satan’s reign. These three characters are not static by any means. They gradually climb from disbelief to recognition to level 11 of panic! One of the best decisions in the making of this film is the fact that there are no secret witch covens or flat out demonstrations of the supernatural. Throughout the movie, it is very plausible that Robert and the rest of the characters have simply become victims of mass hysteria and the power of suggestion. At the end of the film, the viewer struggles with the idea of not being sure if they should rally with Robert and hope that he successfully kills Damien or if they are watching a once loving father go mad and eventually try to kill his son due to mental illness. The screenwriters make use of religious terms and fears to ensnare the audience. Most of us cannot effectively quote Biblical scripture and many folks may profess to be Christians, but do not read the Bible. Most people, though, know Christian based key words and phrases like “Anti-Christ,” “Apocalypse,” and references to the Book of Revelations. These are all bold faced, all caps warning to major evil shit happening and the world is doomed. That fear of and opposition to the Devil that is instilled into every child who has even attended Sunday Bible School is used to their full advantage by the film makers. Then there is the music! Without Jerry Goldsmith’s scores, the film would not evoke a tingling fear that starts up your arm hairs, to your neck, and shivering down your spine. A choir singing to Satan in Latin in minor notes couples the film brilliantly. If the music were not there to haunt the viewer, then the level of fear, the suspension of disbelief would not be achieved. It would seem like a watered down horror flick that did not quite measure up to Rosemary’s Baby nor The Exorcist, but wanted to exploit and capitalize from a cinematic trend. Everything that The Omen does right, the subsequent sequels get it wrong. Each sequel diminishes in quality, cinematography, casting, and plot. Damien: The Omen II (1978) finds Damien (Jonathan Scott-Taylor) as an adolescent. He has been raised by his uncle, Richard Thorn (William Holden) and aunt, Ann (Lee Grant) and alongside his cousin, Mark (Lucas Donat). At the end of The Omen, the viewer is left to believe that the President of the United States, a close friend and former college roommate of Robert’s) is left to raise Damien. In the sequel, the main plot is that Damien will be the next in line to inherit the Thorn millions as well as Thorn Industries. This is overall an okay sequel to The Omen, but it just seems like a watered-down generic version of the first movie. The deaths are not as spectacular and Richard basically replaces Robert. Deaths, accidents, and warnings lead to Richard trying to figure out if his brother simply went mad and attempted to kill Damien or if Damien is really the Anti-Christ. It is interesting to see an older Damien who does not seem to be as aware of his power until he has been sent away to Military school with his best friend and cousin. It is there that Damien’s identity is revealed to him by his protector and mentor Sergeant Neff (Lance Henriksen). Despite being Sam Neill’s first Hollywood movie, Omen III: The Final Conflict (1981) is dull and boring. This third installment fast forwards Damien (Sam Neill) to being a young man in his early 30s. After the suicide of the U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain, Damien Thorn, the CEO of Thorn Industries is appointed to the position (familiar, eh?). This puts into motion the prophecy from The Omen that the Anti-Christ would be in a positon of political power. Of course, a group of priests set out to kill Damien who is romancing journalist Kate Reynolds (Lisa Harrow) and trying to halt the Second Coming of Christ. This movie is boring and is a huge departure from all of the characteristics that make the original wonderful and the sequel adequate. There is a lack of horror to this film. It does not gradually build tension like the first movie. Instead, Damien has fully embraced his role and stands alone in his private sanctuary to the Devil. He goes on long tirades in front of a Crucifix challenging Jesus and screaming “Nazarene!” with a crazed look in his eyes. The romance between Damien and Kate does not work either. Damien seems to be able to have any woman he desires, but settles for Kate who is not especially attractive. There is no chemistry between the two actors. Kate simply serves as a plot point. She is the “Robert” and “Richard” of the third movie. She slowly realizes the Damien is not a dashing, charming reincarnate of JFK as he is compared to in the film. She does not have the drive and passion behind her motives that Robert and Richard had. She does not have as much of an emotional investment in Damien as members of his family had. When I watched 1991’s Omen IV: The Awakening, I tried to maintain an open mind, but I expected nothing and I received it in abundance. Having killed off Damien in the third movie, the franchise introduced Delia York (Asia Vieira) who was adopted by two attorneys Gene York (Michael Woods) and his wife Karen (Faye Grant). In the tradition of The Omen, Gene has political aspirations and becomes a congressman. Mysterious deaths and behavior surrounds Delia. Karen suspects that something is not quite right about her daughter and hires a private investigator Earl Knight (Michael Lerner) to investigate Delia’s birth parents. In the meantime, Karen becomes pregnant. We later learn that Delia is in fact Damien’s biological daughter. In a twist worthy of Maury Povich, Delia has carried the embryo of her twin brother inside her and it is later implanted in Karen who gives birth to him. This film was made-for-television and embodies everything that is a poorly-made film, let alone a terrible addition to the franchise. It is convoluted and does not make sense. The movie itself tries to cover a vast timeline in a short amount of time. You guessed it; the movie contains a montage of Delia growing up. Very little time is spent developing the characters. As a result, the audience does not feel a connection to the characters. We have no emotional investment because the writers and characters seem to lack an emotional investment. We do not even get the cheap thrills of gore or decent death scenes because it is a poorly-made-for-television movie. 2006 marked a remake of The Omen, this time starring Liev Schreiber as Robert, Julia Stiles as Katherine, and Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick as Damien. Although it is a decent remake, it is truly a remake and the audience is left craving the original. It did not add anything spectacular to the franchise. Although Stiles acting contains a stiffness and formality that works well for Katherine, the performances by Schreiber and Davey-Fitzpatrick were forgettable. The best bet is to forego the sequels and rewatch the original! See larger image Omen, The: The Complete Collection Blu-ray New From: $11.92 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.