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Peter’s Retro Movie Review: The Omen (1976)

The Omen (1976) posterby Peter Nielsen

”Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666” Book of Revelation Chapter 13 Verse 18

For my fifth and final horror-movie I’ve chosen the original The Omen from 1976. It was directed by Richard Donner who’s also known for more lighthearted stuff like Superman-The Movie, The Goonies and Scrooged for instance. However, there’s nothing lighthearted about The Omen! This one is scary as hell!

There’s no comedy to ease the tension either… no, the impending doom is ever-present and it never loosens its grip on you. Not even after the movie ends. Already from the opening credits, with “Ave Satani” playing over them, you more or less know what you’re in for.

The movie opens in Rome, Italy, on the American ambassador Robert Thorn, as he’s rushing to the hospital where his wife has just given birth. Unfortunately the child dies at birth and Mr. Thorn, not knowing how to tell his wife, agrees to adopt another baby boy who was born at the same time as his own son.

The creepy Mrs. Baylock.

The creepy Mrs. Baylock.

The mother of this baby died while giving birth to him and now it’s all alone in the world with no relatives to take care of it. Mrs. Thorn is never told of this and for the next couple of years everything is perfect and they’re all very happy.

Mr. Thorn is played by the iconic Gregory Peck from Spellbound and The Guns of Navarone for instance and his wife Katherine, is played by the beautiful Lee Remick (Telefon, No Way To Treat A Lady).

As the boy grows older it gets more and more evident that there might be sinister and evil forces at work here. Mr. Thorn is approached by a priest, Father Brennan, played by Patrick Troughton (Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger), who desperately tries to warn him about the boy, Damien. Mr. Thorn doesn’t want to hear it and has him thrown out of his office-building.

Snooping around!

Snooping around!

Father Brennan shows up again, at Damian’s 5th birthday party, to try once more to warn the Thorns about their son. This party is also where the nanny stands on the third-story ledge of the house, shouting: “Look at me, Damien! It’s all for you!” before jumping off, with a rope around her neck. That’s pretty grim, as far as birthday-presents go, wouldn’t you agree? But then again, considering who they claim this kid is, maybe it’s the perfect gift after all.

The longer into the movie we get, the more signs we see of who he is. He has an aversion towards the church! A pretty violent one, I might add. Animals doesn’t like him much either, which is most noticeable in a scene where Damian and his mother goes on a trip to the zoo. Some of the animals flee in terror while others, like the baboons, attack the car he’s in. That scene in particular is really scary!

Shortly after the first nanny kills herself they get a new one, Mrs. Baylock, played by Billie Whitelaw (Frenzy, The Krays). The weird thing is that they didn’t send for a new one, but she’s just suddenly there one day, telling them that the agency sent her as a replacement.

Is the terror obvious in her eyes, or what?

Is the terror obvious in her eyes, or what?

The Thorns are a bit perplexed, but since she has good credentials, they hire her anyway. She seems ok, but after she’s left alone with Damien for the first time, she turns to him and says: “Have no fear, little one… I’m here to protect thee.”

I suppose you’re all thinking that maybe she’s not a regular nanny? And yes… you would be right in that assumption, because no… she’s not. Not by a long shot! She’s one creepy lady, that’s for sure.

Another important character in The Omen is a photographer played by the great David Warner from Tron and The Man With Two Brains to mention a couple of titles. He’s present both when the priest is thrown out of Mr. Thorn’s office and at the birthday party. He snaps a couple of photographs and upon developing them he notices some “oddities”.

Damien clearly wasn't happy about going to church...

Damien clearly wasn’t happy about going to church…

I won’t go into detail about what it is he sees, but it makes him contact Mr. Thorn and together they slowly start to unravel the awful truth about Damien Thorn. He is played by Harvey Stephens who actually didn’t appear in much else after this. A TV-movie and a bit part in the remake of The Omen is, as far as I know, all he’s done.

If you want a lot of action in your horror-flicks, then you might be a tad disappointed in this one, because The Omen is a movie where the tension is slowly built up until it’s almost unbearable. A large part of why it’s so successful in doing that is the fantastic score written by Jerry Goldsmith. He actually won an Academy Award for it, and let’s be perfectly honest here… The tune “Ave Satani” is a scary piece of music and I love it. I don’t know what that says about me, but there you have it!

But as I said, the horror just keeps getting worse and worse all the way up to the very last shot, which is absolutely terrifying! And even though I know it’s coming, since I’ve seen The Omen a couple of times before, it still gets me!

So, my friends… we’ve come to roads end with the 2012 October Spooky Flix Fest, but I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride just as much as we at the Forgotten Flix site have. Between the podcast and my reviews we’ve covered ten horror movies in the past month. That in itself is cool enough, but… if you then add the awesome Top 10 lists posted on the site, we’ve covered a whole lot more.

I like that and you know what..? I think you do too!

So until next time, ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to wish you all a Happy Halloween!

Peter Nielsen Bio


About Peter Nielsen

Peter was born in Denmark in 1968, but moved to Sweden at the age of six, (not by himself of course), and has lived there ever since. He’s married and has five children, so spare time is somewhat of a luxury. His main interests in life, apart from his family, are long walks, books and movies. Any movie! He has preferences, but he’s not particular as long as it's good or... so bad it's good... he just LOVES MOVIES!

2 comments for “Peter’s Retro Movie Review: The Omen (1976)

  1. Jay
    November 3, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    Nice write up Peter. You’re completely right regarding the slow pace/build up. It is a slow wait for something to happen, but worth it in the end. One point from this film that sticks out is the scene where Damien freaks out in the car driving at the Cathedral. Thats because the Cathedral is in Guildford, which isn’t really too far from me. So that always gets a smile or comment.
    I do like the casting in this too. Like you say David Warner, Gregory Peck, even Dr Who is in there. And quite where they got the little boy for Damien from I don’t know, but he looks real creepy. It’s especially apparent at the end of the film.

    Like I say, nice write up Peter, thanks alot.

    • Peter Nielsen
      November 5, 2012 at 2:46 am

      Thank you for your kind words and for commenting, Jay. Yeah, there’s no shortage of creepiness in The Omen, is there? 🙂

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