Luke Owen counts down to Halloween by reviewing horror movies from the last 60 years; next up is The Omen (1976)…
Three years prior to the release of The Omen a little film known as The Exorcist terrified audiences and pissed off church goers. The big kafuffle made by religious groups only spurred on more people to see it so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that 20th Century Fox would turn their hand to the “supernatural religious horror” with a film that comes with a reputation that almost precedes it…
Yes, one of the most infamous things about Richard Donner’s creepy horror The Omen are the stories that came from its production. After they changed the title of the movie from The Antichrist to The Birthmark, a string of bizarre and deadly events started happening to the cast and crew. Despite taking separate planes, both Gregory Pecks and David Seltzer were both struck by lightning in the air, Peck cancelled one of his flights that ended up crashing and killing everyone on board, Harvey Bernhard was nearly struck by lightning in Rome, the Rottweilers attacked their trainers, Richard Donner was hit by a car and his hotel was bombed by the IRA, and many of the principal crew survived a head on car crash. And sadly, while on set of A Bridge Too Far, special effects artist John Richardson was injured and his girlfriend was beheaded in a tragic accident. While this critic is saying that these can be put down to coincidence, a more religious reviewer might tell you otherwise.
But even without its (perhaps) coincidental occurrences, The Omen would still be scary film because it is a frighteningly creepy. The chilling performance by young Harvey Stephens as Damien is mirrored by the ever-growing threat for parents Gregory Peck and Lee Remick. The slow burn into each disastrous event is done so beautifully and each one builds upon the last. Each death sticks in your mind and that stare of Stephens will never leave your nightmares. Donner may have gone on to make light hearted movies like Superman II and The Goonies, but he made a masterful horror movie that unnerves you to the very core.
According to trivia notes, Donner had to convince Fox to give him extra money to hire on Jerry Goldsmith to produce the soundtrack for the movie – a move that, for my mind, would cement the films place in cinema history. Goldsmith’s terrifying score encapsulates everything about what makes this movie so good. Each scene is scored perfectly and the main theme ‘Ave Santani’ is bone-chilling. I’m not saying that the movie would have failed without this score, but it certainly adds to the movies gravitas.
Everything about this movie, from the film itself to its production, is scary. People who know me will tell you that I am not easily scared, but The Omen does quite a good job of it. Turn off the lights, turn on the TV and hide behind the sofa – the Antichrist is coming for you.
Gore: ★ ★ ★ / Scares: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Entertainment: ★ ★ ★ ★
Luke Owen is a freelance copywriter working for Europe’s biggest golf holiday provider as their web content executive.