The Omen (1976)

The Omen
Director: Richard Donner
Writer: David Seltzer
Cast: Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner, Billie Whitelaw, Harvey Stephens, Patrick Troughton, Martin Benson
Seen on: 18.12.2022

Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) is the US-American ambassador in Rome, with his pregnant wife Katherine (Lee Remick). But something goes wrong during the delivery and their baby dies. Robert can’t bear to give Katherine the news and when a priest (Martin Benson) suggests that Robert adopts another newborn instead whose mother just died. Pretending that the boy is their own child, Robert agrees. A few years later, Robert, Katherine and their son Damien (Harvey Stephens) have relocated to England where Robert’s career is going strong. But after they hire a new nanny (Billie Whitelaw) and Damien starts behaving erratically, Robert starts to suspect that something else is going on with the child. Something evil.

The Omen is the kind of film that everybody seems to be aware of, and that I knew enough about to know when it was being referenced, but that I’ve never actually seen. Finally having rectified, I can say: okay, that’s done.

The film poster, showing a drawing of Robert (Gregory Peck) and Katherine (Lee Remick) standing close together, looking scared. Underneath them is the silhouette of Damien (Harvey Stephens) who throws a shadow in the shape of a wolf.

The Omen is not a bad film. It still has quite a few shocking moments that I didn’t see coming, and there are some very creative deaths that are very well done. The effects still work excellently. But I have to say that I just didn’t find Damien particularly creepy (the nanny, Ms Baylock, much more so – props to Billie Whitelaw for her performance that hits just the right notes of sinister to not make it completely unbelieveable that she would still work there). Admittedly, I was shocked at the ending that was a lot darker and bleaker than I expected.

But the moment where the film had me gasping the loudest was probably right at the beginning where it’s shown as not only completely acceptable, but actually something a good husband does, when Robert decides over Katherine’s head that she couldn’t handle the truth and to adopt a child without her knowledge. Now that is horror. That is a nightmare. And I do hope that it is simply because the film is almost 50 years old and that shit wouldn’t fly anymore today (unfortunately one can never be sure about feminist advances). In any case, it’s no wonder that this kind of decision making is the start of pure evil.

Katherine (Lee Remick) and Robert (Gregory Peck) in the car with Damien (Harvey Stephens).

Peck and Remick are very convincing as the happy (and extremely privileged) couple who try their best and who love each other very much. They are the heart of the film and the film would have probably done well with focusing the stakes more on them than the global threat.

The film moves at a much slower pace than one is used to nowadays, and probably also with a lower body count. Which is not a problem per se. But coupled with the fact that the film is so incredibly serious about its business, it does become slightly dreary. Instead of building the tension by making everything very important and grave, I wanted the film to be a little light-hearted for just a second, just to spice things up and give us a change of pace. And maybe acknowledge its own cheesy parts.

Damien (Harvey Stephens) standing in a military cemetery between the graves.

Summarizing: alright but too serious.

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