Tuesday, October 19, 2010

2010 Geek Fright Fest: The Omen

Editors Note: The next few days will be devoted to horror films with sequels. The original films will get a full post and the sequels will be combined in a second post.

The Omen (1976)
Rated R (for violence)

Directed by Richard Donner

Gregory Peck
Lee Remick
David Warner
Billie Whitelaw

With three sequels and a 2006 remake, The Omen is a familiar story. Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) agrees to adopt an orphaned baby after his own child is stillborn. His wife, Katherine (Lee Remick), is kept in the dark, believing that their son, Damien (Harvey Stephens), is her biological child. Until the age of five, Damien grows up without incident. During his fifth birthday party, however, a menacing black dog appears and Damien's nanny hangs herself from one of the upper windows of the Thorn's mansion. (Hands down the scariest moment of the film.) This event is the catalyst for the Thorn family's destruction, as evidence falls into place that Damien is anything but an ordinary little boy.

The film lulls you into complacency. The Thorns begin as a loving couple who obviously care a great deal for their young son. After Damien's birthday, the tragedies fall upon them like dominoes and as Katherine starts to question her sanity, Robert cannot stop himself from discovering the horrifying truth about his own child. Jerry Goldsmith's chilling score practically makes this movie. It is easy to see why it won the Academy Award in 1976.

The whole cast is excellent, but Stephens may be the most terrifying child actor in movie history. He had very few lines, but his facial expressions were chilling, particularly his horrible little smile at the end of the film. His performance is proof that sometimes less is more. My favorite actor in this film is Billie Whitelaw, who plays Damien's new demonic nanny, Mrs. Baylock. Whitelaw is a wonderful British character actress with a distinctive gravelly voice. She has appeared in several BBC adaptations of classic literature (including her turn as the vicious Madame Defarge in A Tale of Two Cities) and had a minor role in one of my favorite Hitchcock films, Frenzy. She is probably most recognizable to recent American audiences as Joyce Cooper in Hot Fuzz.

I watch this flick (and its sequels) every year during Halloween festivities. It's a beautifully made scary film and a true classic. (If you're an Omen fan, I suggest buying the box set. It's a great deal for all the Omen films, including the recent remake.)

Fright Rating: 2 gasps out of possible 5

This is a classic horror film, but it does have a few shockingly graphic (for the time) deaths. This is not a film for children, but I do highly recommend it for your Halloween horror flick viewing.

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