THE OMEN (1976) Reviews of horror classic

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‘You have been warned. The Omen is here’
The Omen is a 1976 American horror film directed by Richard Donner. The film stars Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner (In the Mouth of Madness), Harvey Spencer Stephens, Billie Whitelaw, Patrick Troughton (Scars of Dracula), Martin Benson and Leo McKern. It is the first film in The Omen series and was scripted by David Seltzer, who also wrote the novel.

Prolific composer Jerry Goldsmith (Psycho II; Poltergeist; Alien) provided the film’s distinctive classic score.

The newborn son of Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) and his wife, Katherine (Lee Remick), dies shortly after birth in Rome. Robert is coerced by Father Spiletto (Martin Benson) into substituting for the dead child an orphan whose mother died at the same moment, without telling Katherine. Out of concern for his wife’s mental well-being, Robert agrees. They name the child Damien Thorn (Harvey Spencer Stephens). Soon after, Robert is named U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain.

While posted in England, Robert is plagued by several mysterious events. Damien’s nanny hangs herself at his fifth birthday party and a new nanny, Mrs Baylock (Billie Whitelaw), suddenly arrives to replace her, also bringing an evil dog with her. Father Brennan (Patrick Troughton) knows about Damien’s origins and warns Robert that his wife is pregnant and that Damien will kill the unborn child. The priest subsequently dies when a lightning rod falls and impales him through the side of his neck. Katherine tells Robert that she is pregnant but miscarries when she is knocked off a balcony by Damien.

Following Father Brennan’s death, and while piecing together other clues, photographer Keith Jennings (David Warner) begins investigating Damien after noticing marks on photographs of people that seem to predict their subsequent deaths. Keith travels with Robert as they investigate Damien’s birth.

They visit the Rome hospital but find that a fire destroyed the hospital records and maternity and nursery wards. Robert and Keith visit Father Spiletto at a rural monastery and discover he has been burned on his right half and struck mute. They are sent to a ruined cemetery and find a jackal’s skeleton in Damien’s mother’s grave, and discover that Robert and Katherine’s child was murdered to place Damien in their care. Their discoveries lead them to believe that Damien is the Antichrist…

“With horror films these days using flimsy plots as filler to tie together their big set-pieces it was refreshing to see something that had grand horror showcases throughout (who can forget David Warner’s grisly demise) yet a strong and engaging narrative that means rather than watching the clock waiting for the next murder to occur you’re actually engrossed in something that is merely enhanced by the odd fright.” Blueprint: Review

The Omen is wonderful – taught, economical and terrifying. Its Brit horror credentials may be muddied by many foreign locations and a serious input of Hollywood cash and talent, but make no mistake – it’s a fine English horror story beautifully told. Try to put yourself in the mind of a viewer watching it back in 1976 and see it again with new eyes. Rarely has a horror film been so thought-provoking.” British Horror Films

“The movie’s plot devices ultimately carve The Omen as a sociological horror movie, combining elements of religion, modern myth, pathos and family structures. The timeless theme of good versus evil is carried out in such a chilling way as to make this a definite horror classic. Another element that makes The Omen work is that the characters’ destinies are pre-ordained.” The Terror Trap

“Like The Exorcist before it, the film’s production was plagued with problems – fires, accidents, and illness – leading to the legend of the ‘Omen curse’. In the context of the satanic cinema craze of the late ’60s and ’70s, The Omen is not quite up there with The Exorcist or Rosemary’s Baby. But it still chills to the bone.” Time Out

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